Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Ok so I wrote this last year, but many of you didn't read my other blog (, which I wrote while I was in Rome), so here it is... hope you enjoy. Have a very merry Christmas.

O Come, let us adore Him. This baby, born amidst the animals, born and laid into a feed manger, born amidst the squalor to a poor, working class guy and his fiancee, is the one who is worthy of our adoration. This baby, whose heralds were both great and small, star and shepherd, women and wise men... this baby is the King of Kings. Is the long awaited Savior, the one to bring a deliverance from a more demanding master than Rome, from a master that wars for the soul. This baby, God in flesh, God clothed in the most undivine clothing of a weak and helpless babe, is the ONE to bring peace on earth, peace in men's hearts.

Hosanna in the highest! The angels couldn't hold back from belting out a song of celestial joy. The wise men drop to a knee, the shepherds reach out with rough calloused hands to stroke the soft cheek of the baby and then sit back an marvel, wonder in their eyes. Joseph stand protectively by, exhausted and confused but remembering his dream and knowing that his adopted son's entrance into the world confirms that this angel who appeared was not just his imagination. And Mary files away the memories with a worn out, contented look on her face, not even minding the smell of the shepherds.

O Come, all ye faithful and adore Christ the Lord! The sacrificial Lamb of God who was born to take away the sin of the world. Kneel before Him, for he alone is worthy of the adoration. Joy to the world! Hosanna in the highest! Amen.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas Music

Sorry I haven't posted in such a long time. I am back in good old Columbus, Ohio. It was kind of a strange end to Florida but I will get to that some other time (maybe). Needless to say, the internship with Relevant is done (though hopefully I will keep writing for them), the Congo River Golf job is done (pictures to be posted soon), and I am looking for work. But as another way of saying Merry Christmas to you (my two readers), here is an opportunity to download Sleeping At Last's Christmas EP. It is wonderful music, the guy has a very unique voice that I am a big fan of... their style? Orchestral pop? Check it out and see for yourself. I have already downloaded it and was not disappointed. And if you like it, go buy their stuff on iTunes. Their latest CD is truly one of the best I have heard of this last year.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Wednesday I got to interview celebrity photographer and founder of Help-Portrait Jeremy Cowart and H-P event coordinator Annie Downs. The resulting feature was posted today at relevantmagazine (CLICK HERE to get to the article). I think Help-Portrait is a pretty cool idea, so check out the interview, the video below, and consider if you would want to get involved in the future.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Lost Kids

Please please please head over the Relevant Magazine's REJECT APATHY website and check out an article I wrote called "The Lost Kids" (CLICK) about orphans and abandoned kids both here in the States and in Russia. It highlights a group in the States called Casey Family Programs and a group in St. Petersburg, Russia called The Harbor. This is perhaps the most important article I think I have ever written, and I would love for you guys to read it, recommend it to friends (if you think it is worthy) and spread knowledge about this ongoing tragic situation. (if you didnt click the above link, CLICK HERE to go the article.)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas in Community

Hey guys, here is LINK to the latest article I have written for Relevant, a reflection on Christmas in musical Community. It was a pretty fun one for me to write, so check it out. CLICK HERE

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Joy to the World

I can't figure out how to embed this video, but I thought I would post the link anyway. If you want to see what I was doing this time last year (aka caroling outside of St. Peters Basilica), click HERE or go to

Friday, December 4, 2009

Puddle Jumping

It has been raining all day here in Orlando, FL and I have been hit with a killer case of writers block. Which is why I am writing about puddle jumping. I walked out back to try to clear my head and there was a stinking huge lake of water in the back road. It was the kind that inspired me to go and jump in the middle of it. I didn't. But I wanted to. Which made me think, when do you grow too old for puddle jumping? I hope I never do. I understand, being at work and all, it was probably a good decision not to jump in the middle of it today. But I want to be the guy who isn't afraid to run and play in the rain, to jump in puddles, to dance to the drum roll of thunder. I know I did it last year, even though our neighbors though we were nuts. Me and Giacomo Campobello (otherwise known a GC, Giacamoney, or Jimmy S) ran outside in the pouring rain and danced in the lake that would form on our terrace. It is a wonderful thing, a random thought that I never want to grow out of that. And neither should you! (below are picture of M

INTERN BLOG: Identity and Security

You can also find this by CLICKING THIS LINK

One of the beautiful things about life here in Orlando FL has been the small group I have been a part of. Though I am sometimes (frequently) the only person who is not married at our weekly Bible Study, I love getting to dive into the Word with these new friends and be challenged by what God has to say to me, especially since I am going through a pretty dry spell of finding time in God's Word.

This week we covered John 13, when Jesus washes the disciples feet at the Last Supper. The part that stuck out to me was "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper." I guess I had never realized it before but it says that the part that preceded Jesus washing their feet was that he knew "the Father had given all things into his hands and that he had come from God and was going back to God." He knew his identity and that enabled him to serve, to take the lowest of low positions, and wash his disciples feet.

Isn't it interesting how knowing our identity has this effect? As Christians, we have an identity as children of the King of Kings, adopted into His family and made heirs in Christ. Yet how often do we live out of that identity? How often I sit back and place my identity in other things, maybe even good things, but not the ultimate thing. I put my identity in the fact that I write for Relevant, or perhaps in how many people actually read what I write for Relevant (confession: I am a compulsive stat checker). Or there are times that I put my identity in my relationship with my girlfriend and when we have conflict, my whole day is thrown out of wack. Whatever it is, you probably do it too. A job, status, what church you go to, what music you listen to, what clothes you wear... I used to think all that talk about "idols" in life was great but not applicable to me. Sadly I have found myself wrong.

Our identity, our HOPE is secure. Yet we squander it when we place it in things that are passing away, not ever guaranteed for a single day, we are not resting in the peace that Jesus offers. I am currently searching for a job and am not sure what's next. If my identity is in Christ, I know that God's promises are true and he is in control. If it is placed in what job I get, I am constantly stressed out and worried about how it will all turn out because my identity is tied into how it turns out. But in Christ, it becomes more than empty words that I repeat on a Sunday because it is WHO I am. Not these false, insecure identities that I build like sand castles to be washed away at the first wave.

When we find our identity where it should be rooted, we are freed to serve others. Like Jesus, we can humble ourselves because it isn't their opinion that matters. We can lower ourselves because we know that what the World sees does not matter, it is the fact that we are a child of the King. We are secure. Try actually believing that. Don't let it just be empty words... too often I do that, I let words wash over me without truly sinking in. But I don't want to live for others opinions, I don't want to live for a stable and financially secure job, I don't want to see people as means to an end but as people that I can serve. The more I do that, the more I will truly live in what I am created to do.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Andrew Peterson: BTLOG

No, BTLOG is not some texting code that you must figure out. Instead it stands for Behold the Lamb of God: the True tale of the coming of Christ. Presented (and mostly written and sung) by Andrew Peterson, this album is perhaps my favorite Christmas album I own. Strangely enough, it is not an album full of classics. If you have never heard it before, the only songs you will recognize are "O Come O Come Emmanuel" and "O Come Let Us Adore Him." Don't that let that discourage you. Instead, I am EXTREMELY excited to tell you to head to THIS LINK and listen to the entire album streaming on your computer (check out Evie Coates sweet artwork, which is part of the player as you listen to it as well).

Why do I love this album so much? One, it is True (capital T intended). Seeing the story of Christ, beginning with a promise to the children of Israel for deliverance, from the Passover, to the prophets, to the kings, and then to a period of silence before the heavens are ripped open on a night when the angels cant hold back their joy at proclaiming the birth of the God-man... ahh the beauty of the story, what CS Lewis calls the "one true myth", sets my heart soaring. To have that all put to song is even more amazing. I talked about this album so much to my roommates the first year I was in Rome that all three ended up buying the album.

I love how the songs on this album echo with history, are painted with beauty and sink deep into the reality and the mystery of the story. It will even make you laugh with Matthews Begats, a song whose lyrics are mostly made up of the list of names that begins the Gospel of Matthew. If (as a Christian) by the end you are not "Singing out with joy for the brave little boy who was God but made himself nothing," I am not sure what ever will make you do that. Please, my 10 readers, please head over to and give it a try. If you like it, head on over to the Rabbit Room Store and buy the CD. Or better yet, find out if the tour is coming near you and make the trip to go witness it live. It is a concert you will never forget.

As a bonus, I found this video of Jill Phillips singing the song Labor of Love live at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville (used to be the home of the Grand Ole Opry). Her husband, Andy Gullahorn, is on the guitar, Ben Shive on the keys (both amazing songwriters in their own right). The song start out with the line "It was not a silent night..." The way that she sings the song is achingly, hauntingly beautiful.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Worthwhile Christmas Albums

December is upon us and I love it! While it is really weird to be in Orlando, FL and seeing palm trees and the sun, which seems to disappear in Columbus for the month, I love this season. The way I get into it down here is by not looking outside and cranking some Christmas tunes. I know some of you already have your favorite Christmas classics and swear you won't listen to anything but Bing Crosby during this time of year, but allow me to submit some new choices to listen to. From here until Christmas I will periodically post mini-reviews of excellent Christmas CD's that you should give a shot and perhaps haven't. Most of these aren't the classics that you may already know of but each is worth your time.

As a treat, the first one is available for FREE from Noisetrade. Called "Advent Songs" and made by Sojourn Community Church in KY, it is beautiful, joyful, praiseworthy and sets your eyes upon Christ, the reason for the season. The opening track, Joy to the World, is my favorite version of the song I have ever heard (yet). It is worth taking the time to download the album simply for that song. This album came as a surprise to me, because although I love church music, I wasn't expecting something this polished and beautiful from a Kentucky church. Forgive my ignorance and dont make the same mistake I did. Download it!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

INTERN BLOG: Indie Hipsters (Or Why I Dont Fit In)

Currently Enjoying: Andy Gullahorn, Drew Holcomb, Mat Kearney, Jars of Clay

I am not an indie hipster. In fact, I am not really hip or in style at all. There are many reasons for this fact. The first and perhaps foremost is my fashion sense. Believe it or not, I actually like the hipster vibe (although I don't think I will ever think skinny jeans for guys is a good choice) but I am simply too cheap to buy new clothes to fit that vibe. And, though I am not fat (or at least I dont think I am), I am not skinny or muscular enough to wear tight shirts and jeans. Perhaps I am just not confident enough to pull it off, but it just doesnt feel like me, it feels like a fake me, a show. My musical tastes also don't fit the hipster bill. At first blush, it may seem like I could fit in; I like a lot of the music Relevant likes, I think fun. is a great band, I enjoy creative hip-hop like QTip, and I know a hecka lot of good (but unknown) musicians. But then again, I am also currently listening to the new Casting Crowns, think the latest Steven Curtis Chapman is one of his best, and I own a lot of country cd's. That is an immediate disqualification.

I dont fit in with indie hipsters. I don't fit in with the gospel choir I sang with in college, the jocks I played with in high school, the church people I hang with currently, my frat boy college roommates, or really any other social cast that I have been around in the past few years. It has been something I have felt all my life. In high school I was on the football team but hung out with the God-squad (my sweet Bible study filled with my best friends). I didn't really fit in perfectly to either. In college, I was involved with Campus Crusade but also hung out with a lot of people who really weren't big fans of Christianity (read most of my dorm-mates). I wanted to fit in everywhere and found out I didn't really fit in anywhere. Post college was Rome, Italy and Agape Italia; though I found a family in this group, I also struggled frequently with inferiority issues. And around my Italian friends, I was often the Protestant among the Catholics, the American among the Italians, the outsider.

I think it is something I need to get used to. This desire to fit in isn't a bad thing; God created us to live in community. I am pretty convinced that the feeling that I don't fit in completely is also not a bad thing; to quote an old hymn, "This world is not my home, I'm just a passin' through." The writer in Hebrews 11:13-16 says, talking about some All-Stars of the Old Testament, that "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." I want my attitude to reflect theirs. Instead of getting bitter, to look forward to the Heavenly country. I think if I do, I will be able to live better here on earth.

Monday, November 23, 2009


This is a video that my buddies at Ole Miss made of my dear friend Davide, from my past year in Rome. This video is pretty fantastic and makes me miss Davide a lot. Check it out.

Friday, November 20, 2009

INTERN BLOG: Prayer and the Facade

You can also find this post by clicking HERE

Have you ever heard of someone described as a prayer warrior? Probably used far too often, it is something that my Mom excels at. My brother Ben used to joke that he has found about 10 wallets because my Mom prayed that he would (including one that fell through a hole in the floorboards of his old beat-up truck and was returned by some random motorist). I got a letter from my Mom this week that says "What a resource prayer is - how awesome the power and privilege of prayer!" and then goes on to talk about the 50 million prayer requests that come from having 7 kids (add in another 6 in-laws) and 11 grand-kids.

The thing about my Mom is that she says something like that and backs it up, shows with the many hours on her knees that she believes it. I far too often say I believe in the power of prayer and offer up selfish prayers or none at all on any given day. Do you do the same thing? Far too often my view of God is full of the right things in my head and that distance from head to heart is a couple hundred miles. My experience this week taught me, yet again, how much I have to learn about trusting God and having a right view of him. Turns out, as I learned, when you get your view of God right, it doesn't simply fix the situations and conflicts in life, but it takes away the anxiety that comes from being a selfish punk and trying to fix it all myself.

When I was a senior at Miami University, I remember a leadership team meeting for Campus Crusade for Christ. In a time of confession (which was absolutely beautiful and soul-baring, but that's another story), one of the kids confessed that he was simply having a hard time trusting God that God could or would heal his Mom, who had a debilitating stroke. As he broke down, he asked for prayer (or maybe one of us asked if we could pray for him, I don't remember which) and so we all gathered around him and began to pray. I opened up and starting praying for my friend Pat, that he might be able to trust God. I realized as I was praying for him, I didn't believe a word I was saying. I was just saying empty words, not believing they would have any impact.

Have you ever been at that point where you just break? I am not a guy who cries a lot, maybe averaging one good cry a year, but I just broke. I was done with putting up the Christian facade, the happy face that trusting God was easy and if I prayed in a solemn, serious and somewhat passionate voice, that I could convince others, that I could convince myself, that I actually believed what I was praying. What should have been a prayer for Pat turned into a confession to the Lord that I wasn't believing Him for His promises. I didn't have anything profound to say and I didn't have answers. As tears poured down my face and my voice cracked, I simply told God I was having trouble trusting Him. I told him that I didn't really believe what I was saying at the time. I asked for help. And I finished praying without a tidy resolution.

The circumstances didn't change. As far as I know, Pat's Mom is still having a rough go of things. Prayers dont always get answered and I sometimes get scared to pray them. My doubts and insecurities and attempts to put up a mask still creep in. But in that moment, and many subsequent moments, my heart was refreshed, was breathed into, was lightened. Honesty can do that to you, especially when it is honesty in front of my Creator. Who am I kidding anyway? He already knows whats in my heart. I need to operate with a right view of God every day, every moment of everyday. When I take a minute to step back and take in the sunset, thanking him for his glory and holiness, it puts Him on the level He should be and me on my level, which is much lower than His. And it once again helps me believe, let go, and fall into His arms.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

More Duets

What can I say, I am sucker for duets between sweet singers. Check out The Civil Wars music video for "Poison and Wine." If you like it, head on over to their website at and download a free live CD that is pretty rad.

My Modeling Career

Relevant Magazine just published a college guide, including one that is a guide to choosing Seminaries. If you are looking into Seminary, I would imagine this is a worthwhile read. However, in a bit of shameless (and humorous) self promotion, check pages 13 and 17 for the start of my modeling career. I am definitely going to ad these to my portfolio :) To check out the guide, CLICK HERE

Monday, November 16, 2009

I Lost My Job... Now What?

No, this is not a statement about my life but it the title of an article that I wrote today for So if you have lost your job, or if you are simply interested in reading what I wrote, go on over the THIS LINK HERE and check out "I Lost My Job...Now What?"

Friday, November 13, 2009

INTERN BLOG: Don Miller and Vulnerability

This is also found on Relevant's website by CLICKING HERE

Today Don Miller stopped by the office of Relevant Magazine. I am a big fan of Miller's style of writing, finding it highly engaging, easy to read and with nuggets of Truth told in story. So to turn around and see him talking with others was my geek out moment of the day. To add to it, in a hilarious stroke of coincidence the exact same minute he walked in (and this is not an exaggeration) is the fact that a friend has just sent me a gchat message asking if I had read his new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. The same minute! Go figure.

All this Don Miller-ness in my life prompted me to go to his website and check out the latest on his blog. In doing this I ran across this quote: "2. Confession: Half the time, if not more than half, I am full of bullshit [sorry if you are offended by the language, but it is a quote and I though an accurate use of the word]. I share what will make me look good. If I am vulnerable, I share just enough vulnerability to be perceived as vulnerable, rather than to actually humiliate myself so that others can talk more openly about their own insecurities. I also leak in my accomplishments, and I’ve become a master at it. I don’t even know I am doing it half the time, and the other half I strategically list my accomplishments so that they come off as dismissive or “in passing.”

Oh the truth in this statement for my own life! I completely and totally know what he says about sharing "enough vulnerability to be perceived as vulnerable." It is quite a shameful practice. In fact, I had my own moment with that last night at the small group I am a part of from my church. In the Bible Study, I had written something down to the effect that "I know that my life without God is messed up so I pursue God for peace and comfort. In essence, I am pursue God for selfish means, I focus on God because really I am focusing on me. How do I pursue God for the sake of pursuing God?" I shared this with the group and everyone started chiming in. And a funny thing happened.

As people gave me their two cents on how to pursue God as an end goal and what they thought about pursuing God for "selfish reasons", I found myself being slightly put off. The thought that ran through my head was, "yea, I totally know this guys, you dont have to tell me." And I realized that I was being completely arrogant and being vulnerable enough just to be perceived as deep, as vulnerable, but not willing to let people speak into my life. What a shame! For the record, one of the girls shared a beautiful point that "The more you pursue God for whatever reasons, the more you see Him for who He is, the more you will be compelled to worship." Profound.

I want to be humble, but I admit I can be a slave to checking how many people have read my blog or my articles I write for Relevant. I need practice at humility. I want to be vulnerable but I dont allow people to see the truly ugly parts of my life, the times I lose my patience or curse or am a proud punk are well camouflaged . I need practice with vulnerability. I want my life to give glory to God, for those to read, see, hear what I say or do and say "What an amazing God he serves," not "What an amazing kid he is." And I need practice. I am thankful that God forgives when I fail.

Musical Candy

I like these people, I think this is beautiful.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Heads Up

My brother is passionate; he is passionate about his family, about his church, about his faith, and about helping others. This passion led him to start something called Heads Up, a program to help urban youth in Lancaster PA unleash their potential. Through the arts, they draw kids out and show them that they are worth something, they can succeed, that they can be a force for change, that they can be who they are created to be. It is a big endeavor and I am proud of him for doing it. Like any non-profit, they are looking at creative ways to raise money and one way they are doing it is a raffle. They have some sweet prizes (made even better if you are from their area) that anyone can use, the obvious best being the Grand Prize of PRS Custom 22 Electric Guitar (I have no idea what that means other than its estimated value is around $10,000). So, as my public service announcement, click on the banner below, educate yourself about the Heads Up programs and buy some raffle tickets to help support. Who knows, you could end up with something sweet.

Selling Jesus

Two for two! For the second day in a row, I have a piece published on This one is called Selling Jesus, and focuses on the always controversial Christian products industry. I interviewed Aurelio Barreto of the clothing store C28 and clothing line Not Of This World and Mark Bontempo of the company Testamints. After interviewing these guys, I want to be clear that I have a lot of respect for their companies, their hearts, and how they go about business. You may not like what they sell but I have a lot of respect for them. So go on, CLICK HERE to read the article, and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Switchfoot - Hello Hurricane

I reviewed the newest Switchfoot album on today. It truly is one of my favorite, if not my favorite, album of this year. Check out my review and let me know what you think (both of the writing and of the album). CLICK HERE to link directly to the website.

Friday, November 6, 2009

INTERN BLOG: The Forgotten God

This is also found on my INTERN BLOG with Relevant Magazine.
Currently Enjoying: Ives the Band, PW Gopal, Luna Roslyn

A while ago we reviewed a book called "The Forgotten God" by Francis Chan on the subject of the Holy Spirit. Recently I picked up the book to check it out myself and it is challenging me in many ways so I thought I would challenge you with some of his thoughts. How often do you think about the Holy Spirit? I interned with Campus Crusade for Christ, a group who considers the Holy Spirit and living a "Spirit-filled life" essential to the Christian walk. Yet it is something I don't consider nearly enough.

I am currently attending a church plant here in Orlando. I have been a part of young churches before, some great, some not so great. I was challenged by Chan's thoughts on churches; "Even our church growth can happen without Him. Let's be honest: If you combine a charismatic speaker, a talented worship band, and some hip, creative events, people will attend your church. Yet this does not mean that the Holy Spirit of God is actively working and moving in the lives of the people who are coming." How challenging is that when thinking about why we even attend church? Do we go for the speaker and band or do we seek out where the Holy Spirit is moving and active?

Chan gets more personal later, challenging a common view that I am guilty of, the need to "cover for God." He highlights that many people have the fear that, "What if I pray for the Holy Spirit and nothing happens? What is I ask for more of the Spirit's fruit in my life and don't see any apparent 'results.'" I know that there have been times in my life that I have prayed for this, for good things, and nothing has happened. That hurts. "It's scary to pray boldly for change or freedom from sin, because if nothing happens, then doesn't that mean God failed?" Chan points towards God's promises; am I truly praying for what God promises or what I want? And what are my motivations, really, when I am praying? For my comfort and convenience or God's glory. "It really comes down to trust. Do you trust God that when He says no or "not in this way" to you, you still believe He is good and doing what is best?"

Just a few paragraphs later, Chan challenges if I even truly want to know what God's will is. If God's will for me is to move to India and live among the untouchables, would I want to do it? Would I be willing? Perhaps, for me, an example a little closer to home... If God wanted me to break up with my girlfriend whom I love very much, would I be willing to listen to His Spirit? Would I want to hear His Spirit tell me that? I want to say yes but there are days when I think, "No God, there is no way you could ask me that, that is an area of my life that is too good to change." And while it is an area of my life that is amazing, I bet Abraham thought the same thing when God asked him to give up Isaac. "The Spirit will lead you to the way of the cross, as He led Jesus to the cross, and that is definitely not a safe or pretty or comfortable place to be. The Holy Spirit of God will mold you into the person you were made to be." I dont think that God is telling me to give up my girlfriend, but the question is would I be willing if He was?

One of the challenges that I have felt as I have read this is why I want to experience the Holy Spirit working in my life. Chan asks "Do you want to experience more of the Holy Spirit merely for your own benefit? When the answer is yes, then we are no different from Simon the magician, who tried to buy the Holy Spirit's power from the apostles." Right now I am looking for a job and have found myself asking for the Lord's direction in what's next. Yet I am realizing that more often than not, I am doing that to try to get my life in order and not to glorify God with what I do with my life. It is not wrong to want to get my life in order, but when that is the end, well, it's not a good thing. Why do you want to experience the Holy Spirit? "The Holy Spirit was given to direct us. Desiring the Holy Spirit means that we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. By definition, it's ridiculous to desire the Holy Spirit for our own purposes. The Holy Spirit is not a passive power we can wield as we choose. The Spirit is God."

I am not done with the book but I am thankful for the challenges it is throwing my way. One of the last things I read talked about the reasons we can't hear what God is trying to tell us; the volume of our life drowns Him out. Jesus didn't have email, voicemail, iPod, text, twitter and whatever else yet he still found it necessary to escape to a silent place. "Our lack of intimacy is often due to our refusal to unplug and shut off communication from all others so we can be alone with Him." It is a challenge that I want to learn from and grow in this weekend.

Another amazing recipe

Thanks to Ella for yet another beautiful recipe to post on my blog. Stolen from a very old Betty Crocker cookbook, this one is perfect for a cool fall day.

4 medium tart cooking apples, sliced (4 C)
3/4 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C flour
1/2 C oats
1/3 C butter or margerine
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease bottom and sides of an 8-inch square pan.
Spread apples in pan. In medium bowl, stir remaining ingredients until well-mixed; sprinkle over apples.
Bake about 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown and apples are tender when poked with a fork.

Fantastic Video

Some of my Agape Italia friends that are still in Rome made this video. I love it, it almost brought me to tears. Watch until the end and catch my dear friend and brother in Christ Giuseppe speaking. I love this.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thomas Merton

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

- Thomas Merton, "Thoughts in Solitude"

Ben Rector

You have to check out this guy. I just returned to after not being there for a long time and was delighted to find one of my new favorites, Ben Rector, front and center. The widget to download it for FREE is below. He has the best song for an uncle to a nephew ever written... seriously, the song Hank is fantastic. So please please please, if you like music, help this guy out and download the goodness he is offering. You can pay or simply tell 5 friends. Do it. You wont regret it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Brick vs. Cornerstone

Every day I drive 40 minutes to work. It could be a shorter drive but working an unpaid internship forces me to save money where I can; toll roads are an easy thing to cut out and simply add more traffic lights and time. Then I drive 15 minutes to my second job (on days that I work both) and at 12:30 am, I drive another 45 minutes home. I spend a lot of time in Baby Blue, my trust car that is the color of Babe the Blue Ox.
I listen to quite a bit of music on this drive and lately have been listening to a podcast of sermons by Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Mark yells a lot, gets pretty passionate, and dives into Scripture. I like it. I have been listening to his sermon series called "Trial", focused on 1st and 2nd Peter. The one I listened to most recently was quite challenging. He talked about Jesus as the Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4-8) in a sermon called Trial: Temptation from Worldliness (you can find it online HERE). The thing that he said that challenged me was "Is Jesus the Cornerstone of your life or is he just another brick."

You see, the Cornerstone is the thing that a house is built around. Remove it and the whole thing crumbles. A brick is kind of like Jenga; remove it and chances are you are still doing ok. So is Jesus the Cornerstone or a Brick? Is he the thing that, if you remove, the whole thing crumbles? Some people might see this as a bad thing. They might say, "Jesus is great and we should have him in our lives as a positive influence, as a moral guide, possibly even saying the Jesus Christ is the Son of God and should be in our lives because he is the only way to God. BUT dont build everything on top of that." I think there are a lot of people like that, even a lot of people who call themselves Christians.

But can you be a Christian is Jesus is just another brick? If your life, every aspect of your life, isn't dependent upon Jesus Christ being the Messiah and the one that we follow, how can we call ourselves Christian, disciples of Jesus Christ. I know that I am not perfect. I know there are times that I try to relegate Jesus to a brick, that I say "It's just my choices in music or movies, its entertainment and Jesus doesnt really care what I listen to or watch." Or perhaps I live as if the Bible is just another book, as if Jesus wasnt speaking literally when he said "If any man is to come after me, he must take up his cross and follow me. He who seeks to save his life will lose it and he who loses his life for my sake and the Gospel, will find it." So I dont really need to be lost in him.

But I do. I have to. If I call myself His disciple, I have no other choice than to follow, even when I dont understand. This doesnt mean that it is wrong to question or doubt or seek out answers. We are told to do that, being "wise as serpents yet innocent as doves." Questioning but following in faith. So how about it. Is Jesus just another brick or the cornerstone?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Excerpts from Orthodoxy

From my INTERN BLOG at

Currently Enjoying: Until June, The Damnwells, Trent Dabbs

This week I finally finished "Orthodoxy" by GK Chesterton. I will not pretend to understand everything that Chesterton says in his classic on his reasons for being a Christian. One thing is for sure, when he is understandable he often has brilliant, creative "duh" moments of logic. But man, reading a guy who wrote for the 1900's audience can be just as confusing as trying to read in a foreign language. Probably is part of the reason the book took me about two years to get through. I could only take it in small doses.

His last chapter was one of the most powerful and I thought I would take the time to share some of that with you. You can decide whether it is worth taking the time to read. Please excuse the lengthy excerpts but I hope you enjoy:

"Many a sensible modern man must have abandoned Christianity under the pressure of three such converging convictions as these: first, that men, with their shape, structure and sexuality, are, after all, very much like beasts, a mere variety of the animal kingdom; second, that primeval religion arose in ignorance and fear; third that priests have blighted societies with bitterness and gloom....The only objection to them (I discover) is that they are all untrue. If you leave off looking at books about beasts and men (if you have any humour or imagination, any sense of frantic or the farcical) you will observe that the startling thing is not how like man is to brutes, but how unlike he is. That man and brute are like is, in a sense, a truism; but that being so like they should then be so insanely unlike, that is the shock and enigma...Certain modern dreamers say that ants and bees have a society superior to our... Who ever found an ant-hill carved with the images of gorgeous queens of old?"

One of the brilliant things about Chesterton is that, much like CS Lewis (God bless those Brits), is that he is able to deconstruct common assumptions. To look at it from a different lens, seeing things not what culture tells us to see but for what they are. He goes on to state things in such beautiful ways as, when explaining the church's role in the Dark Ages, as "I read a little history. And in that history I found that Christianity, so far from belonging to the Dark Ages, was the one path across the Dark Ages that was not dark... How can we say that the Church wishes to bring us back into the Dark Ages? The Church was the only thing that ever brought us out of them."

Or perhaps, when talking about the reality of miracles, "The believer in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them. The open, obvious, democratic thing is to believe an old apple-woman when she bears testimony to a miracle, just as you believe an old apple-woman when she bears testimony to a murder...It is we Christians who accept all actual evidence -- it is you rationalists who refuse actual evidence being constrained to do so by your creed."

Or, when talking about the need to have faith: "If faith is one of the conditions, those without faith have a healthy right to laugh. But they have no right to judge...Suppose we were investigating whether angry men really saw a red mist before their eyes. Suppose sixty excellent householders swore that when angry they had seen a crimson cloud: surely it would be absurd to answer "Oh, but you admit you were angry at the time." They might reasonably rejoin "How the blazes could we discover, without being angry, whether angry people see red?"

On God being the one, true God: "It does not trouble me to be told that the Hebrew god was one among many. I know he was, without any research to tell me so. Jehovah and Baal looked equally important, just as the sun and the moon looked the same size. It is only slowly that we learn that the sun is immeasurably our master and the small moon only our satellite."

On reincarnation and original sin: "Theosophists for instance will preach an obviously attractive idea like re-incarnation; but if we wait for its logical results, they are spiritual superciliousness and the cruelty of caste. For if a man is a beggar by his own pre-natal sins, people will tend to despite the beggar. But Christianity preaches an obviously unattractive idea, such as original sin; but when we wait for its results, they are pathos and brotherhood and a thing of laughter and pityl for only with original sin we can at once pity the beggar and distrust the king."

On joy: "Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian... (Jesus') pathos was natural, almost casual. The Stoics, ancient and modern, were preoud of concealing their tears. He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city. Yet He concealed something. Solemn supermen and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger. He never retrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell. Yet he restrained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied it was His mirth."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Innovate or Die. Seriously.

Yet another published on, called Innovate or Die. Seriously. I am a fan of this because it gave me a chance to look into something that I love (music), interview someone who I have serious respect for their music (Billy Cerveny), and give props to the great website So if that interests you, head on over and read up on whats the latest. Thanks.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Is the Bible Actually True?

There is a great article entitled "Is the Bible Actually True" on RelevantMagazine today that I didn't write. It is thought provoking, something to wrestle with and engage in conversation about. We need to have our convictions nailed down. I am currently chewing on this article and would love to know what others think. I will hold my opinions until a little later this week, though I will do my best to say what I believe later.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Free Music Monday

Another weekend has come and gone much too quick. I am currently at work so I will make this quick. There is a quite interesting CD that has come to my attention that is available for free download. So check out Brian Lee and His Orchestra (CLICK) or if you want to preview it for free before downloading, head on over to The Drop at to listen to it streaming. Described as "americana flavored" and "likened to unreleased Beatles or Beach Boys demos" and "possesses a sound reminiscent to 1950's doo wop and soul music," I think it's worth you checking out. You may not like the style but it's worth a chance.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Marriage and Memory Lane

I just posted this on but here it is for your viewing enjoyment!

Currently Enjoying: NeedtoBreathe, Between the Trees, JJ Heller

Nothing really prepares you for your best friend getting married. This past weekend I learned that. My best friend Jeremy got hitched to his lovely bride Caitlin and it was beautiful. It was strange. It was everything I expected and wasn't prepared for. You see, when the kid you grow up with talking about girls goes and marries one, you know that life is a train hurtling down a track towards the unknown. It settles in that there is no going back to the days of neighborhood backyard football when the biggest care in the world was whether Mom was going to be able to get the grass stain out of your favorite jeans. Or let you wear them again if she couldn't.

As the best man in the wedding, it was my responsibility to try to plan a bachelor party, give a toast and... well most best men probably have other important responsibilities but J knew me well enough to leave it at those two and tell me to show up for the wedding on time. I was still there 10 minutes later than I was supposed to be (but still an 1:20 before the wedding). The bachelor party was the first step in me saying goodbye to the old days. As a bunch of us piled into cars and drove out to a farm with no electricity, to play capture the flag, drink and eat and tell stories, I thought about how many times we had done this in the past. How many freezing cold nights were simply amazing because I was with my best friends, doing manly things like running around in all black and tackling each other as we stumbled our way toward the flag or getting people out of jail. The only difference this time was when we got stuck in jail, we got to enjoy a cool brew while we sat and waited to be rescued.

I think it was towards the end of that night, at 2:00 am when my toes were frozen and we sat around the campfire singing worship songs that I realized how special my childhood really was. And how it is gone. I won't buy into the lie that "those were the best days" because I trust God has more adventures in store for me. But a time of innocence is gone, replaced by lessons learned, new friends made, and 15 extra pounds. And so we toasted J and his step in learning what it means to be more like Christ in loving a wife. We toasted what God had given us and where he had taken us. I thought that was going to be my emotional point, that that was my lesson that I wasn't prepared for, a goodbye to childhood.

Then came the wedding day. Caitlin was beautiful, J's eyes "leaked" as we prayed for him and then when she walked down the aisle as we all stood there grinning. And I realized that not all my little kid-ness had left, as I shifted from foot to foot, not being able stand still as I stood beside him and the preacher spoke. It was a surreal experience, yes, but beautiful. Things progressed well; pictures were quick, the food was excellent, there was plenty of fun yet to be had. But then it came time for the toast. I can't remember the last time I cried profusely... probably back in senior year of college, two years ago. But as I stood up there, honoring my best friend, what he had learned, what we have gone through together and the beautiful woman that he married, I was a wreck. My eyes started "leaking" in a quite unemotional part of the toast. By the time I was to the end, the "leaking" was out of control and I was reading my toast without looking at him, trying to hold it together.

It was a goodbye to something beautiful. It is a welcoming to something even better, something holy and right and good and true. What I had with J, as a best friend, is forever gone, part of what God had in store to mold us both and teach us what it means to follow him. He now has a best friend in his life that needs to take my place, probably already had taken my place. I will always be there for him and he will for me, but it is different now. And I praise God for that. For the ways we grow and change and learn. I once heard someone say that "God loves you too much to let you remain who you are." I am thankful that this whole growing up thing is a part of that, of God's plan.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Naked Dude in Virginia

Run and hide, people are naked in their own homes! A dude in Virginia was arrested (CLICK HERE for the news article) for being naked at 5:30 AM in his own home. Some lady who was walking across his lawn at 5:30 happened to catch a glimpse of this guy naked and making coffee in his kitchen. This is an absolute and utter crock. I realize there are a lot more things to get fired up about but this just makes me angry.

A couple points: IT WAS HIS OWN HOME! Are you kidding me? I can't tell you how many times I could have gotten arrested for something like this in a home, let alone outside of a home. Have you ever been streaking? How about skinny dipping? Those are outside in public spaces and this guy was INSIDE in his own private residence. And the lady didn't even see him from the sidewalk; she was trespassing on his lawn. It wasn't like he had his cheeks plastered against the window, he was a guy who just rolled out of bed and went downstairs to make some coffee. AT 5:30 IN THE MORNING!

I think maybe the reason that I get fired up about this is because this dude now has to go to trial and possibly, if some asinine lawyer prosecutes him well enough, have a criminal record. For making coffee naked at 5:30 AM in his kitchen. And that could have been me. I went streaking at 10 AM my senior year of college. I have gone skinny dipping who knows how many times. And for those, while maybe not the smartest, moments of being a goofy idiot I could have a much longer criminal record than this guy. And chances are you probably could to.

The VA police should drop this. They should apologize. This lady who called in the charge should bake him a couple dozen cookies and send them with a sincere apology. I am not all about public nudity but this isn't about public nudity or indecent exposure. It is about a guy who didn't throw on any boxers when he made coffee in the morning. To arrest him for that is the real crime.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Why I Want to Grow Up

Today on, they published an article I wrote entitled Growing Up Is Harder Than Ever, which was my ode to feeling, well, actually not feeling grown-up. Prompting this is my sometimes present inferiority complex, the need to feel that I have arrived and am worth something. I know that is a big statement to make, I know I am worth something, but honestly, if you are 24 and working as an unpaid intern and living for free at your friends parents house (they are fantastic, by the way), it is hard to feel grown-up.

Does anybody else feel this? This inane or perhaps quite necessary need to feel grown-up? My girlfriend is quick to tell me I am, that I need to consider myself as an adult because I am one, but sometimes that is hard when I am at the bottom of the totem pole in both my jobs. And the job that pays my bills is part time at a mini-golf place (Congo River is sweet thought). Last year it was a lot easier to feel grown-up when I was living overseas and in charge of two teams of people, leading out into something significant.

Which is I think where this all boils down to; significance. Sure, there are a LOT of things that help one mature and grow up (responsibility being primary) but for me, the issue is where I find my significance. I have made strides to be responsible, to pay my bills, to take responsibility for my actions and their consequences, but what I need to do in the end is find my significance in God. Because jobs will change, economic situations will change, relationships will change, responsibilities will change, even physical abilities will change. But my relationship with God is a constant and something that is true. It is where I need to find my hope and significance, that I am a child of God, not because I do or don't run a company. Which is good, because right now I am far away from even pulling in a reasonable paycheck.

To read the article, if you haven't already, CLICK HERE

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I'm Famous... sort of

So in my RELEVANT highlight of last week, I got to interview a band named Reilly. You can check out their tunes that they played acoustic for RELEVANT and the interview that I did with them by clicking HERE. They have three songs there and have a rad cover of Buffalo Springfield, For What It's Worth. It was a good time, I really dig their music (the live version, at least) and their guitarist played slide guitar using a glass filled with Coca-Cola. And he drank the Coca-Cola from a straw as he played. That is rock and roll. So rock and roll. And their design is freaking sweet. Love it and it is all designed by their bass player. Below is their music video that won first place in the music video category at the San Diego Film Festival.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Temper Trap review

Hey guys, wrote a review of an Australian band called The Temper Trap for RELEVANT this week. I honestly don't think it is my best work but feel free to click HERE and read my review. If you are not interested in the review, at least check out SPINNER (click) and listen to the whole album streaming, free of charge. Enjoy!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Book Review: Brother West

Head on over to to see my latest published piece, a book review of Cornel West's newest book Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud. It is a interesting read on a controversial intellectual, one who is unabashedly Christian and unabashedly left-wing socialist. Click HERE to read the review.

A Monday Treat

Because Mo
nday's are, well, Mondays, I figured I would post a little snack of delectable pop music for you all. Some college buddies of mine are in a band called Cavashawn and have been working hard to hit it big since we graduated. Currently situated and rockin' the Chi-town music scene, these guys are some of the hardest working musicians out there. Seriously, they work their butts off with promo, making new music, and connecting with fans. Hopefully it is paying off. This week I noticed they are offering up their ENTIRE music catalog (2 EP's) for FREE on their website. You dont have to give them anything, not even an email address. So head on over to and download what you like. My favorite is Friendly Fire, but all of it is enjoyable pop/rock.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Ten out of Tenn

I saw these guys in concert last summer and it was and still is the best concert I have ever been to. Check out Ten out of Tenn, singing a cover of Bob Dylan/The Band's I Shall Be Released. If you like what you hear, head on over to their website to listen to more. Click HERE

See a Sermon

My Grandma Martin went to be with Jesus this past week. My Mom got to hold her for the last few hours before she died. I wasn't able to make the funeral but I gather that my Uncle Dean shared something from this poem and I heard that my brother Ben shared some thoughts even more profound (from the biased words of my Dad). But I read this poem and it was the kind of simple poem that just makes sense to me. So here it is for you.

Sermons We See
Edgar Guest
I'd rather see a sermon
than hear one any day;
I'd rather one should walk with me
than merely tell the way.

The eye's a better pupil
and more willing than the ear,
Fine counsel is confusing,
but example's always clear;

And the best of all the preachers
are the men who live their creeds,
For to see good put in action
is what everybody needs.

I soon can learn to do it
if you'll let me see it done;
I can watch your hands in action,
but your tongue too fast may run.

And the lecture you deliver
may be very wise and true,
But I'd rather get my lessons
by observing what you do;

For I might misunderstand you
and the high advice you give,
But there's no misunderstanding
how you act and how you live.

When I see a deed of kindness,
I am eager to be kind.
When a weaker brother stumbles
and a strong man stays behind

Just to see if he can help him,
then the wish grows strong in me
To become as big and thoughtful
as I know that friend to be.

And all travelers can witness
that the best of guides today
Is not the one who tells them,
but the one who shows the way.

One good man teaches many,
men believe what they behold;
One deed of kindness noticed
is worth forty that are told.

Who stands with men of honor
learns to hold his honor dear,
For right living speaks a language
which to every one is clear.

Though an able speaker charms me
with his eloquence, I say,
I'd rather see a sermon
than to hear one, any day.

Absolutely Insane Surfing

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Ten out of Tenn, a Brite contributor, rockin' last summer
I recently wrote an article for Relevant on new music distribution. It would be a lie to say that I did not write this article because I am a huge fan of this website So I am going to take a minute or two to tell you why I love it. And they are not paying me to say this, I just am a big fan.

First of all, it is a great deal. It is a subscription website, which means it costs $5.oo/month. Whereas iTunes would give you 5 songs for $5.00, on BriteRevolution, you will get more than 40 songs a month. And while iTunes won't let you do anything with their songs but play them on their products, Brite comes without DRM, meaning you can do whatever you want with it.

The second, perhaps more important, reason to love BriteRevolution is the quality of the music. I joined the website when it first started and I knew probably half of the fantastic artists on the site. They were favorites like Andy Osenga, Matthew Perryman Jones, Billy Cerveny, Katie Herzig, Randall Goodgame, Andy Davis, and Griffin House. I was exposed to a dump-truck load of new goodness, to the point where now I am swimming in too much new music and I like it. New favorites include Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors (perhaps my current FAVORITE artist around), Andrew Belle, Adam Agin, Joy Williams, and Ben Rector. And that is not the only people that are added. There is a great variety of artists that are handpicked by the people who run the Revolution, including the funky sounds of Space Capone (weird 70's vibe), experimental rock of Heypenny and Milktooth, the newgrass sounds of Sean Watkins, and sweet soul folk of Stephen Gordon. Click on any of those links to see what I mean.

The third, and last reason I will give you, is that BriteRevolution gives back. 10% of their gross revenue (not profit, revenue) goes to charities of the artists choice. I love the fact that that is built into the business model. So head on over to Brite and see what all the fuss is about.

** I stand corrected on iTunes having DRM. It doesnt. Brite still kicks its butt

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

CRACK House article

New article up at Relevant. Head on over the the website and it is on the revolving menu at the top. It is called Finding Jesus in the CRACK House. Or just click HERE

Friday, October 2, 2009

Life and Death

I wrote this for my INTERN BLOG at Relevant Magazine, but I wanted to repost it here. Hope you don't mind.

Unexpectedly Enjoying: Jeremy Riddle-The Now and Not Yet, Steven Curtis Chapman-Beauty Will Rise (heartbreaking, beautiful, releases Nov. 3)

Today, while sitting at a stoplight lost in my own world of music and waking up on my morning drive to work (40 minutes), I thought I was going to die. That might be a little dramatic, but a semi-truck was taking one of those BIG turns and looked like it was going to plant it's cab squarely into my drivers side door. The fact that I am writing tells you that I made it out alive and it was probably a pretty safe distance from me, though in my zombie-like trance, it startled me. And call me morbid, but it made me think about life and death.

Last week a girl that I worked with at Kofenya Coffee died of the swine flu. Her name was Kimi Young and she was 23, a year younger than me. I saw her a month ago when I was visiting Miami University. I am not going to lie and pretend like me and Kimi were the best of friends, but we had a good time working together. I liked being around her; carefree, a modern hippy, she loved people well. One day she was ok, a week later she was dead from swine flu and pneumonia and hundreds (literally) of people miss her.

My scare with the semi, Kimi's too-soon death, and now listening to Steven Curtis Chapman's newest cd that is profoundly influenced by the death of his 5-year-old daughter put me in this introspective mood. After the semi swung by this morning I started thinking about what would have happened if that semi had given my a one-way ticket to heaven? Not whether I would have gone to heaven; because of my faith in Christ and his atoning sacrifice, I am sure that is where I am headed. But how would people react?

How have I made a lasting impact? What are my relationships like? Have I had a fight with someone that hasn't been resolved? If ever there was an impetus to resolve conflict, it is the frailty of life (and that God commands it). I don't want to go and have the last memory someone has of me that we had bitter words. I want the last words I say to my family, my girlfriend, my friends to be "I love you" and not words in anger. I want people to look at my life and say, "That kid lived all out for Christ. He loved God and loved others well." When it comes down to it, it doesn't matter if I am remembered as a great writer unless I wrote for a purpose. It doesn't matter if others thought I was good looking, but what was the shape my heart was in.

This is not some call for empty sentimentality. It is a call to consider how "you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (James 4:14)" That isn't a call to check out, it is a call to live out short life well. The worlds oldest man, Walter Breuning, turned 113 a couple days ago and gave an amazing speech. CLICK HERE to read it in its entirety. But one of the things he said was "Life is short but the influences of what we do or say is immortal. There needs to be much more of the spirit of fellowship among us and more forgiveness."

More than ever, I pray that as you contemplate this, you meet Jesus in a more real way. I will end in the words of Kimi on her profile before she said goodbye to this world: "I found myself in the one who made me. The one that knows who I really am. Behind everything I hide, he knows exactly what makes me tick. He knows more about me then I'll ever think about, he knew me before I had a name. He sees everything... and still has a plan for me." Amen

Monday, September 28, 2009

Shameless Self Promotion

Hey faithful reader (or readers?), I have TWO feature articles up on I am really proud of the one called "Why Its Wrong to Be Cynical" and the other one is a little more informal, a little more lighthearted, called "I Kissed Dating (Books) Goodbye." Check em out and let me know what you think. And dont worry, I will have some exclusive blog content soon, not just links to stuff I have been writing for other places.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What's the Story

I wrote earlier today a blog post for RELEVANT, entitled "What's the Story?" I encourage you to check it out over on their website by clicking HERE.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Storytelling with Eric Peters

Just last week, I was able to interview Eric Peters about his newest cd, Chrome. I am pumped about this because I am a big fan of Eric's music and think you should be too. The fruit of this interview is now published on, called Storytelling With Eric Peters. Click on the previous links to go read it and comment on the bottom what you think. And the comments are important because... well, because my editors think they are and they show people are engaging with an article (I guess). Anyway, if you would like to listen to some of EP's older stuff, check out his myspace HERE. Thanks guys and gals.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Matthew Perryman Jones and Cynicism

It is no secret that I love music. One of my favorites is Matthew Perryman Jones, a singer/songwriter/rockstar out of Nashville. If you have never heard his music, you need to. He wrote an essay a few years back for a now defunct record label Eb&Flo that I have been thinking a lot about lately. With his permission, I am putting it up for you now. I think his writing style will give you an idea as to why I love his music... check it out below!

Random Thoughts on Music, Wonder and Cynicism
By: Matthew Perryman Jones
A few years ago a friend of mine gave me a CD for my birthday. He handed it to me and said, "trust me". The cover was mostly white with what looked like faded inkblots. I barely made out the name scribbled on the front that read "Sigur Ros". I have to be honest, from the first chord I was sucked in. The bending guitar sounds along with the incoherent vocals that sort of float around like a ghost in an empty stairwell resonated with me. There is a transcendence in the music. Some people listen and think it's depressing. I find it inspires me to lend a sharp eye to what's going on around me and to listen more intently. It kind of turns the saturation up on life and widens the lens of perception a little more. I have always liked music that does this.

When I was 14 my musical landscape stretched wide open when I first heard the band U2. This was the mid eighties. Van Halen was still awesome, but when I heard U2 I immediately spit out my bubble gum and started digging into the feast. The music transported me into another world. They were singing about stuff that meant something more than the typical smarmy love songs. I remember going on family vacation and listening to "The Unforgettable Fire". I had it on tape and listened through my Sony Walkman. I would just stare out the car window and let the music pull my insides out. At times I felt like I could burst from the swelling sense of awe. There was something spiritual about it, and by that I mean it awakened the sense that I was more than skin and bone; more than just a teenager trying to figure life out. The conviction and the feeling behind the music seemed to be pointing toward a bigger picture.

I have always been caught up with this notion of a larger story-that life is more than what it seems. To actually live from this perspective causes me to suspend my judgment and to pay close attention to what's unfolding. I don't live this way all the time, but I'm always being brought back to that perspective. There is a sense of wonder that comes with it. Music and other forms of art do the job of helping sustain the capacity for wonder. At least that's the case for me. However, no matter how much one tries to preserve this sense of wonder there are things that work against it and try to kill it. We grow up and become wise to the ways of the world and the skewed intentions of people. We get wounded and jaded. Eventually cynicism seeks to take the place of wonder. Well, for me it has. Everyone's story is different and everyone has a battle to fight.

Cynicism, I have concluded, is nothing more than soul-rot. Our world is full of it. I spent most of my twenties succumbing to it's charm. It seems sophisticated and perceptive. But really it's nothing more than a coward dressed up in a tweed blazer smoking a Peterson pipe. Cynicism is dismissive and disengaged while looking invested and astute. For the last several years I have been fighting this bent to have a clever dismissal for things, people, politics, religion, etc. I have fought to keep the wounds of my past from informing my view on life. I refuse to be the sideline spectator who rests on his vain pontifications about everything that's wrong with the world. There is a lot that is wrong with the world and there is no need to pretend that everything is OK. However, we are made, as Cornel West puts it, to "love our way through the darkness of the world"-this is what I choose to be about.

How does this all tie in? I'm not sure yet. I guess it has to do with the thought behind my latest record, "Throwing Punches in the Dark". The title may suggest something violent and dark, but that's not what it's about....well, not really I don't want to explain everything behind the record. I think it's good to leave some interpretation to the listener. I will say that "Throwing Punches in the Dark" is about a good fight. I think to love is to fight. By now, most of us know that love is not a fluffy fairy tale where everything is easy and pretty. Love is strong and ruddy. It fights for what's good, true and beautiful. There's a lot of resistance toward how things are meant to be. This resistance lives inside of me and that's where the fight starts.

The music that matters to me is the music that insists on the transcendent; that sounds like muddy feet and outstretched arms. If you are what you eat, then this is the stuff I want to feed on. Music has that other-worldly ability to nourish the spirit and enlarge the soul. I'm done with the flimsy cynic seeking to hide himself in the steel armor of pseudo-intellectual babble. I want to hear a voice that sings from the ache of hope and love. I want to feel the swinging of fists through the resistance and despair. In the words of Bruce Cockburn, "got to kick at the darkness til it bleeds daylight". Amen.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The power of shame

Windows down, music turned up loud, I was lost in my own world. Driving back from a night of hanging out with some STINT friends, I was stuck in traffic in Orlando near UCF. The music that was playing was Alli Rogers, a singer/songwriter who is pretty mellow and very much a girl. In fact, her music may be girl music. This is not soulful Amy Winehouse, this is chill and relax, but I like it and had just found her new CD so I was giving it a try.

I was woken out of my little reverie by laughing and comments. Stuck at a traffic light, there was a Hummer next to me full of college students. Not being too far out of college, this is still my peer group. And they were laughing at me. I looked over and the guy riding shot gun was laughing but pointing back to his friend, who apparently had been making some comment that I half heard. I look back at him and he looks at me and sarcastically says, "I like your music." And then rolls up his window as they all burst out laughing again.

I wanted to turn it down. I was ashamed. And it made me sad that that was my reaction. All I said to the guy was "Hey, I listen to what I listen to," as I sheepishly shrugged. But I stopped to think. Why was I ashamed? Because I was listening to music that they didn't deem appropriate or cool? If I was listening to the latest hip-hop hit, or perhaps Kings of Leon, or maybe some indie darling like Modest Mouse, would I have gotten laughed at? Probably not. But I liked the music I was listening to. So why did it matter so much to me what they thought?

It made me think about the power of shame and/or peer pressure. We hear so much about that in elementary, middle or high school but don't realize it goes on for the rest of our lives. Right now, at Relevant Magazine, I am slightly ashamed to say I like certain music because it doesn't pass the test of what others like. What I should be truly ashamed of is that I know that I have, in the past, tried to make others feel stupid for liking the music they like. I am sorry if you are one of the ones that was on the receiving end of that.

It is not wrong to like something and not like something else. It is not wrong to present that viewpoint to someone else, or try to persuade them to listen to what you like. It is wrong to use shame and fear to manipulate someone into believing your point of view. And it sucks. Lowers you (and me) to a level that we were never meant to live at, showing off our own insecurities at how much we want our music... or job... or clothes we wear... or hobby... or church to be liked. When we seek to find our significance in others opinion, we will be easily swayed this was and that, never choosing ground to stand on and defend. To offer to other people without humiliating them into joining our side.

Peer pressure and shame are highly effective tools. And one that we should be ashamed for using. But we will always be affected by it if our sense of identity and security is found in something like what we do, or who we like, or what we own. If our identity isn't rooted in something deeper than ourselves, we will be weak and powerless to resist it. What is your identity rooted in? I want mine to be my relationship with Jesus Christ. But do I live like that?

Friday, September 18, 2009


Head on over to and check out my new blog post entitled INTERN BLOG:Learning Humility. It should be down on the left and is a little more personal, about how I have been learning more of the never-easy lessons in humility.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Church Shopping

My very first feature article to be published online at Relevant Magazine is up NOW! Check out the feature of the day, creatively entitled Church Shopping and leave some comments. It makes me look better, even if the comments are critical :) So click on THIS LINK HERE to go there

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Surfin' Cocoa Beach

Have you ever seen a surfing documentary? Step Into Liquid is my favorite because, well, it is incredible. The raw, awe-inspiring power of the ocean is harnessed into a sport that is one part finesse, one part creativity, and one part wicked cool athleticism. And they make it look so stinking easy! I went to the beach my first weekend here in Florida and the guys out there were making it look easy too.

So I took the day off today. After working 25.5 hours the last two days (11 at Congo River Golf and 14.5 at Relevant Magazine), I figured I deserved a day off. Well, it wasn't a full day because I finished my first feature to be published and did an hour interview, but you get the point. And I headed down to Cocoa Beach with some friends to learn how to surf. The kind folks at Ron Jon Surf Shop rented us boards for 5 bucks and we hit the beach.

First mistake; I didn't bring a rash guard shirt. I figured I was tough and didnt need it (and cheap and didnt want to buy one). After two hours, my chest was (and still is) torn up, a ugly red rash adorning my belly like I just did a belly flop into a poison ivy patch. And I learned why surfers wear board shorts. The lining of regular suits... well it chafes. And I learned that all those surfing documentaries are a lie! This is hard stuff.

It took my quite some time to stand up; I was more interested in learning how to make my board nose dive and becoming acquainted with the sand on the bottom on the ocean. But when I finally caught my first wave and stood up... ahh what a rush. It was for maybe a couple seconds, but it felt unlike anything I have ever felt before. Whereas skiing on snow is hard, feeling the rush yes, but also the hard terrain beneath your feet, surfing was smooth and effortless. After all, the wave did most of the work for me. Water skiing is mechanical; with surfing, God was the mechanic who invented the surf and told it where to break and made my body in a way that I can stand and balance. I am no expert. I probably caught 5 decent waves in 2 hours and spent the rest of the time falling off my board as I was sitting still, getting rolled by waves, and paddling and paddling and missing my chance. But those 5 times are enough to make me want to go back. To step back into liquid and see what surprise God has for me next time.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Gods Underwriting

My brother's are a talented bunch. One of them recently wrote an editorial and though the NY Times hasn't picked it up yet, I am proud to publish it here on my little blog for you all. Seriously, this is challenging and worth a read. So without further ado, the first of perhaps many guest pieces (footnotes are posted as the first comment in the comments section):

God’s Underwriting: Why And How Should We Lend?
By Matt Rule
In a year filled with financial uncertainty, there seems to be only thing that everyone is certain of: banks are not lending enough money. Americans, whether rich or poor, conservative or liberal, homeowner or renter, blue-collar or white-collar, have unanimously raised their voices to angrily condemn banks for their failure to loosen their purse string and lend more money. Perhaps we, as followers of Jesus, should be grateful that our fellow Americans are not reading their Bibles more. If they did, we may very well find their anger focused upon us.

God didn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle room on the subject of lending when instructing his chosen people, Israel. In order that the poor would not become alienated from community, God instructed his people (1) to lend and (2) to charge no interest. In Leviticus 25:35, God declared:

If one of your countrymen becomes poor and unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you. Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God so that your countryman may continue to live among you. You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.

God’s instructions to Israel reveal to us God’s loving and redemptive heart, and challenge us to dramatically restructure our attitude towards our money.

God’s lending standards were driven by God’s desire that a person’s financial failures would not alienate them from community. God explained that He wants to permit those who have become poor “to continue to live among” us. We are commanded to lend so that those that lose their jobs, are overwhelmed with medical bills, or fall victim to their own poor financial choices, are not, in their time of discouragement and hurt, isolated from an encouraging, compassionate and honest community. A sudden loss of income can sadly lead to foreclosure and force a person to physically move away from their established community. However, income shortages can also force a person to work extended hours instead of attending small group meetings, trade family time for long public transportation commutes, or sacrifice valuable recreational and educational opportunities for their children to meet minimum credit card interest payments. This was not God’s plan.

God’s solution was that his people, the chosen people of God, lend to the poor. This was a command directed at each individual. We can safely assume there was no asset backed securitizations, no federal reserve, and no international monetary fund. I can only conclude that God understood, yes God even desired, that each loan would be a particularly intimate and very personal transaction . The risk of default would be born by the lender alone. The lender’s unprotected risk makes God’s discussion of interest even more startling.

God directed his people not to charge interest. This directive is difficult to accept for two primary reasons. First, these loans were directed at persons who were poor and were unable to support themselves. Persons meeting these requirements were high-risk borrowers in no position to offer adequate collateral or demonstrate sufficient cash flow to repay their indebtedness. They would be a modern day underwriters nightmare. Second, when lending to such a risky borrower, we would naturally expect to be compensated for our risk. If an individual can earn 2% in an FDIC insured checking account, why can’t they earn at least 5% from their jobless neighbor? Charging higher interest would only fairly compensate lenders for their risk. I believe that puzzling over these directions is only appropriate. They strain against everything we have been taught and belittle our financial intelligence . And therein, I believe, is the answer.

Lending our hard earned money interest free to high-risk borrowers forces us to demonstrate to the world by our actions that our faith means more than the security afforded to us by financially savvy decision making. We are called to be different; we are called to be countercultural. God’s instructions push us to redefine the framework we have been operating in: a high risk borrower is the only worthy borrower, a wise investment is traded for a God centered investment, monetary rewards are substituted for God’s promises. We are depending on God to reward those who lend freely to the poor (Deut. 23:20), to bless their children (Psalm 37:26), and to repay them for their kindness (Prov. 19:17). In sum, our actions will demonstrate that God’s kingdom priorities and promises are a higher priority than financial security and monetary gain.

As you look for opportunities to lend to the poor and out of work, here are a few practical guidelines to consider:

1. At the outset, limit your lending to costs associated with the (1) repayment of outstanding credit card debt, (2) mortgage payments and (3) health related expenses. This creates a bright line test that protects against you and the borrower from disputes arising over questionable discretionary expenditures.

2. Prior to lending, consult and pray with at least one follower of Jesus that is not a family member.

3. Pay the money directly to the indebted party rather than to the debtor. This will avoid any disputes about where the funds are being applied.

4. Lending is not an opportunity to control the debtor. Do not attach burdensome restrictions to your loans; doing so undermines God’s message of grace and love.

5. Lending is an opportunity to encourage the debtor obtain financial counseling. We should take the opportunity to have the debtor review their budget with a financially gifted friend, counseling service, or follower of Jesus.

6. Don’t expect repayment. While you should work with the debtor to equip them with the tools to repay the debt, and encourage them to work to satisfy their obligations, embrace the realty that the loan may not be repaid.

As we embark on this radical journey, let us be grateful for what we have been given, humbly acknowledge that we have failed to place restoration ahead of financial gain, pray that we have the strength to put our faith in God when doing so crashes against our financial intelligence, and celebrate that we still have the opportunity to work alongside Jesus to bring good news to the poor.