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.

Monday, September 14, 2009

New Music Monday

We will see if I can keep up with this, but I am going to try every monday to post a New Music Monday! Hopefully, similar to my past blogs Free Music Friday, New Music Monday will showcase something new I have listened to and (hopefully) some free download for you all. So kicking off New Music Monday is The Civil Wars. A collaboration between Joy Williams and John Paul White, The Civil Wars are in the style of folk duets, often slow and haunting. I would call it country but it lacks any twang. Their voices meld well, rising and falling in a way that made me care less about the lyrics (which are above average, as far as music comes) and sit back and enjoy the atmosphere. Head on over to their myspace page to download a live CD for free... no string attached.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Changing Things Up: A Recipe

In the spirit of changing things up, here is a great recipe for you guys. This was a delicious one that was served up by Ella, one of my STINT teammates from this last year. So give it a try, enjoy and dream of being in Italy as you eat it... or at least, I will.

1/2 C Pine Nuts (ok... I think you can use 1/3 or even 1/4 C here instead of the 1/2.. b/c they are *expensive*!)
1/2 C Raisins
1/2 C boiling water
1/2 C Olive Oil
6 cloves Garlic, minced
10 oz. Spinach, torn up into pieces
1 lb. Farfalle (bowtie pasta)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/3 C Parmesan cheese
1/4 lb. Prosciutto Crudo, torn/cut up into small pieces (Italian meat, essentially dry-cured ham)

Toast the Pine Nuts in a little skillet with a little olive oil... then set them off to the side.

In a small pot, bring the 1/2 C water to a boil... then add the raisins. Let them "cook" in the boiling water for about 10 minutes (they will plump up a little) and then drain them.

Take the 6 cloves of minced garlic and add to the 1/2 C Olive Oil. Let it warm up a little in a large skillet/pot... Add the torn-up Spinach pieces. Let it wilt for about 2 minutes and then turn the heat off. You can even set the skillet to the side if you're working on electric & your burner is still blazin.

Boil water & salt it for your Farfalle---- cook till al dente :) ---
Drain your Farfalle and add the Oil/Spinach mixture to it. Add the raisins and the cut-up Prosciutto, the Parmesan, the pine nuts & the salt & pepper...
And I think you're ready to go!
And hey- if you don't wanna stir the pine nuts all into the whole pot-- You could wait till the end and sprinkle them on top.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Blog post on Relevant

My first post as a Relevant Intern is on the Relevant Website under blogs. Check it out by clicking HERE. If it doesn't come up, search for INTERN BLOG: Welcome to the Big Leagues!

Geek out moment of the day: Getting to listen to the new Switchfoot album more than a month before it releases. And it is good my friends, it is good.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Welcome to The Grande Adventure

My previous blog was entitled Well since I am no longer in Rome but in Orlando, here is the new and improved. It is entitled The Grande Adventure in a nod to the BIG adventure I had in Rome but also to the fact that I am realizing that life is an adventure. If you never come back to this website, I wont be too offended. But I do want to ask are you living your adventure?

It doesnt mean, "Are you living overseas?" or "Are you doing crazy things with your life, like selling all your possessions and living among the poor. But it means that all of life is an adventure, something that God has a beautiful plan for. Are you living your story, your adventure? As a journalism major in college, I came to the firm conviction that everyone has a story worth telling. But if you are sitting on your couch watching TV (or surfing the internet in my case) with the majority of time and wasting a lot of your story? What I mean is, what is your life all about? Only you can answer that for yourself.

Part of my adventure for the past two years was living in Rome, Italy. Since being back I have introduced my girlfriend to all my family, seen my brother get married, my Grandma Rule go to be with Jesus, traveled to Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Muskoka Canada, Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, and now have moved to Florida to intern with Relevant Magazine. A crazy summer, with stories and thoughts that will be posted on this here blog. So if this interests you at all, and the occasional free music posted, I would love to see you come back. And I promise, I will be more faithful in posting than I was on c-ruleinrome. I promise.