Archive for the Life Category

Christian Music and John Mark McMillan’s “The Medicine”

Posted in Life, Music with tags , , on July 10, 2010 by raingeg

So I’ve just put a pot of water on to make some Saturday night pasta, in the mean time I’ve decided to write an album review. I suppose I should tell you the brief story that led me to this particular piece of music. Let me preface it by saying that I consider it a treat to actually review an album. It could be laziness, or just the fact that I’m not very enamored by new music, but I find myself buying about two new releases a year. It used to be that I was always looking for new bands on the horizon and looking out for new albums. Over the past few years my interest in new music has dwindled, and I’m much more content listening to an old record than a new artist.

It’s very rare that I am pleasantly surprised when it comes to listening to something that I’ve never heard before. I remember it happening some years ago now, when I listened to Wilco’s A Ghost is Born. I was in my best friends car one night, he had the album on and it hit like a ton of bricks, which is funny considering how light that albums sound is. Funny thing was, I couldn’t tell you what song it was that I listened to, I can just tell you that it hit me and I liked it. And it eventually lead me to really enjoy nearly all of Wilco’s music.

I remember waking up about a week ago, logging on to my FaceBook and just for the heck of it watching a video that my friend posted with the hash tag #musicthatdoesntsuck, so I guess that means it had to be good. This particular morning, like many mornings these days, I was stressed out, both mentally and physically. As many probably are, with the way things are politically, with the economy, and on top of all that just the everyday stress that comes with living. So, on this particularly stressful morning I clicked on the YouTube link my friend posted on his page. What to my wondrous eyes did appear, but a video and a song by John Mark McMillan. I happily watched as I ate my bagel before work.

I’d never heard of John Mark McMillan before, but I liked what I heard. The song playing was called “Skeleton Bones” and it seemed to hit me exactly the way the Wilco album did many years ago.

Christian music is not supposed to sound like this, its pretty good! Though I knew immediately that it was Christian music, which is something I liked. It was Christian music that didn’t wreak of the usual mundane stuff we hear pumped out in a fashion similar to that of the popular music of the secular industry. You know, the type of music that’s been run through one too many focus groups. Now my day was off to a good start and I felt much better.

Less than a week later I bought The Medicine. I didn’t know that McMillan had penned the popular Christian song “How He Loves” I just knew that he could write. It was evident in his lyrics, even One minute in to the first song of his that I’d ever heard. Also apparent was the fact that he was able to muster the courage to not sound like everyone else, something I admired.

For the last week I’ve been listening to the album as I drove around town. I listened to it straight through once and a few more times on shuffle, needless to say I liked it.

Modern Christian music, it seems, is supposed to have a certain sound, an almost corny sound that I can’t quite put my finger on. Its almost like there are a set of words and phrases that are to be repeated and any divergence from that path is to be regarded as wrong. Like using the mouths and minds that God has given us to create vivid imagery in our hearts and minds is to be avoided, so that even the basest mind can get the message. Though I’ve always understood The Gospel to be a simple message, one that is fit for the peasants and the kings, a message that does not need any dumming down. The addition of a metaphor that aptly attempts to put into words the wonder that is God is better than nothing at all. And a song that tugs on a joyful thought and applies it to Christ’s message is good. On the other end of the spectrum you have bands and artists that constantly force you question whether or not they are actually a Christians, a task that gets a bit too arduous. These artists are the byproduct of the Contemporary Christian music industry.

The Medicine does not fit either mold. I don’t want you all to think that I’m just writing this to bash on Contemporary Christian music, even though I am a little bit. I’m writing this because I thoroughly enjoyed John Mark McMillan’s work and I think that his music needs to be acknowledged and to a degree be emulated. Though I tread with caution there because I think blind emulation is something that has contributed to our current problem, and has created the other extreme, artists that won’t touch Christianity with a ten foot pole. There are in fact gems out there that write great Christian music and their work should not be marginalized.

Back to the album. The actual sound of The Medicine is a bit of a mix of Roots Rock, Folk Rock and plain old Rock music. The album is not lacking in lyrical mastery, and does not shy away from the powerful name of Christ, a plea for “righteousness” and what sounds like a real heart for God. It holds true to Christianity, all the while maintaining lyrics that uplift and make you think, as it holds on to a sound that leaves one desiring to hear more.

If I were you, I’d buy the album for $9.99 on iTunes, and check it out for yourself. It comes with some extras if you get it via iTunes. I hope the impact that The Medicine by John Mark Mcmillan had on me on a stressful Thursday morning will at least make you take a look at it, as I know this review is not quite like most reviews. I think about 25% was dedicated to the actual album.

Well, I polished off a plate of spaghetti and a couple of pieces of bread, now its off to bed so I can get to work in the morning.

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Pigeons on the Porch

Posted in Life with tags , on June 24, 2010 by raingeg

I went outside about 3 weeks ago to find a nest full of eggs on my back balcony. Now they’ve finally hatched, here’s my little Pigeon friends.

Learning to Listen

Posted in Life, Politics with tags , on June 22, 2010 by raingeg

Often times I now find myself staying out of political discussions with people I don’t know or people I’ve just met. I suppose I’m slower than I once was to vocally announce my values to the world, or to people I’m meeting for the first time. This probably comes from my desire to learn about people before I get into a knock down drag out fight over abortion or torture or even boring subjects like the value of a voucher program in the educational system.

Before, when I was younger, it was more about winning arguments than it was about engaging in meaningful conversation with another human being. It was more about converting, sans a desire or willingness to be converted. But, as I grow older, I’ve found that I’m more willing to look at the issues, desiring to understand why a person believes what they believe, rather than thinking a person is bad for believing what they believe. I’ve become more willing to stand in complete ambivalence on some issues and not mind at all. And believe me, as a person who likes to have an opinion on everything, ambivalence is a hard position to take.

Don’t get me wrong, I have opinions, and most people that know me know that I’m not afraid to share them with you. I’ve just become more accustom to listening and observing. I’ve also come to realize that just because I don’t agree with a person on everything doesn’t mean everything they say is void or lacks incite. Far too often we throw people into a box and say that because they believe X then Y and Z can never be looked at and that person must always be defined by X, a mindset I find appalling.

In politics today we are always on the look out for the hypocrite or what is known now as the “flip flopper.” I can see someone being disgusted with a person like Arlen Specter, who for one reason, to keep his political career going, switches parties. The guy is a creep and doesn’t deserve to be a servant to the people. But we have to be careful that we are not pinning the hypocrite label on someone that just simply changes their mind.

This post is geared more to those young people that want to get involved with politics, the best thing you can do is listen. Form opinions, and don’t try to convert people, just understand them. Let people know that you understand their point of view and make sure they understand yours.

Comedy for Dummies

Posted in Humor, Life with tags , , on May 5, 2010 by raingeg

I remember being in third grade, grabbing the dictionary off the shelf, looking up the word “sex” and laughing with a classmate. That was followed by stern punishment. But when it comes to comedy it seems our taste has sunk to that low rung of the comedic ladder.

Now a wink and a nod or a jab of the elbow paired with just about anything one says, can be turned into an innuendo of some kind, though its usually sexual. Its difficult for one to speak or write for fear that ones words could be turned around and used to the advantage of a corrupt mind. I must admit, at first it was a bit funny and fun, laughing at the expense of another, but then is just got repetitive and old.

I remember one time I was sitting in a restaurant with some friends and one of them stated that just about anything can be made to sound bad. We then spent the whole night laughing at the fact that no matter what you said if you added an “if you know what I mean” or a “oh, sure that’s what you meant” to the end of a sentence, anything could be corrupted. But is that where we really are? Are we really to the point where we’ve corrupted common speech? The unfortunate answer to this question is a resounding yes.

Twenty years ago on The Cosby Show you would see Cliff and Claire always hinting at the fact that they were going to have sex. There would be a wink and a nod between Cliff and Claire at the end of an episode, and when you saw that you knew that they were going to make love. That was cute, it was also funny, but now we have a totally different situation on our hands.

Today in a regular old conversation you’ll hear about 20 “that’s what she said” comments. I must admit that I’ve said it before in my life, and it might have been funny at the time and it might be funny again someday, but its slowly getting old.

I was talking with my friend Gerry Cross at work about comedy and what is now thought to be funny, and he mentioned that new comedy is just too easy. And I agree with him. Reading into another persons words and twisting them around to make them sound crude or absurd is easy, its not difficult, and not honorable or desired. That email that you get at work of a crude picture or a person acting like an idiot is not difficult, nor is it noble or beneficial. There is a time and a place for stupidity, and sometimes it may very well be funny, it just seems that the amount of stupidity has grown to be more than we can take.

Charlie Chaplin:

“Cruelty is a basic element in comedy. What appears to be sane is really insane, and if you can make that poignant enough they love it. The audience recognizes it as a farce on life, and they laugh at it in order not to die from it, in order not to weep. It’s a question of that mysterious thing called candor coming in. An old man slips on a banana and falls slowly and stumbles and we don’t laugh. But if it’s done with a pompous well-to-do gentleman who has exaggerated pride, then we laugh. All embarrassing situations are funny, especially if they’re treated with humor. With clowns you can expect anything outrageous to happen. But if a man goes into a restaurant, and he thinks he’s very smart but he’s got a big hole in his pants – if that is treated humorously, it’s bound to be funny. Especially if it’s done with dignity and pride.”

But no longer are we dealing with actors like Chaplin, we are dealing with real life. Just visit Youtube and you’ll see what I mean. I unfortunately have to keep telling myself “people really are that stupid.” No longer is our entertainment “a farce on life,” this farce is life. We get a kick out of everyday debauchery. We, like me in the third grade, are basically laughing at the word “sex” in the dictionary. We’ve replaced honorable amusement with cheap and inane entertainment.

Back From a Break

Posted in Life, Site News on April 23, 2010 by raingeg

I am back from a short period away from the blogosphere. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been really busy and sick, and I haven’t had a lot of time to sit down and write. Last week work really took it out of me, and for the last 6 days or so I’ve been fighting yet another cold. This is head-cold 5 or 6 for this cold and flu season, I lost count. And this particular cold has been the worst that I’ve yet to encounter. There’s just something about this kind of head-cold, the kind where all you want to do is crawl up into the fetal position and sleep, that really makes you appreciate the healthy times. But, nonetheless, I am back, and provided I get an ISP in my new apartment and I don’t get sick (I wouldn’t bet on it) I will be blogging as much as I can.

C.S. Lewis on Subjectivism and Politicians, Dennis Prager on America

Posted in Education, Health Insurance, Humanity, Life, Politics with tags , , , , , , , on March 26, 2010 by raingeg

One could make the case that the United States is a few generations behind Europe when it comes to how far to the left we’ve moved. After two brutal wars during the first half of the 20th century it seems that Europe thought the best way to never again be in that situation was to pacify itself and embrace collectivism. In America, it was different, we were aiding the Europeans in the World Wars, and it wasn’t effecting us at home to the degree that it was effecting Europe. We didn’t have men blown to bits in our neighborhoods as did the Europeans.

America had her moments, in the latter half of the 20th Century, internationally we had to deal with the Cold War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and both wars in the Middle East among other international conflicts. We also had our share of economic and political woes. That has had some of the same effects that the first half of the 20th Century had on Europe, and now we are finally realizing this. As Dennis Prager has said on his show earlier this week we are seeing the results of the seeds we have sewn, the chickens are coming home to roost.

C.S. Lewis had the opportunity to live in Europe during the first half of the 20th Century. And if one believes that we are becoming more European, as I do, then I think that it is appropriate to look at Lewis’ view of the world from time to time and apply it to ours here in America. I think you will find Lewis’ comments on the politician interesting.

The quote that I’d like to highlight comes from an essay entitled “The Poison of Subjectivism” which came from (I am assuming a magazine) Religion in Life Vol. XII which was released in the summer of 1943.

I’d like to preface the quote by giving you Lewis’ explanation of subjectivism and another excerpt from the essay.

“It does not believe that value judgments are really judgments at all. They are sentiments, or complexes, or attitudes, produced in a community by the pressure of its environment and its traditions, and differing from one community to another. To say that a thing is good is merely to express our feeling about it; and our feeling about it is the feeling we have been socially conditioned to have.”

Does that not sound like something that someone might be taught today by their first grade teacher, a professor, some parents or even some churches? Morality doesn’t exist, it is merely something that is a result of our society. They tell you that you need to find “your truth,” you need to find what you think is right and wrong.

“Many a popular ‘planner’ on a democratic platform, many a mild-eyed scientist in a democratic laboratory means, in the last resort, just what the Fascist means. He believes that ‘good’ means whatever men are conditioned to approve. He believes that it is the function of him and his kind to condition men; to create consciences by eugenics, psychological manipulation of infants, state education and mass propaganda. Because he is confused, he does not yet fully realize that those who create conscience cannot be subject to conscience themselves. But he must awake to the logic of his position sooner or later; and when he does, what barrier remains between us and the final division of the race into a few conditioners who stand themselves outside morality and the many conditioned in whom such morality as the experts choose is produced at the experts’ pleasure? If ‘good’ means only the local ideology, how can those who invent the local ideology be guided by any idea of good themselves? The very idea of freedom presupposes some objective moral law which over arches rulers and ruled alike. Subjectivism about values is eternally incompatible with democracy. We and our rulers are of one kind only so long as we are subject to one law. But if there is no Law of Nature, the ethos of any society is the creation of its rulers, educators and conditioners; and every creator stands above and outside his own creation.”

That is where America stands today. You have a congress and a president that arbitrarily decide what your “rights” are. They tell you that you have a “right” to “health care,” yet they prohibit you from freely exercising your “right,” and force you to accept something whether you want it or not, doesn’t sound like liberty to me. And the reason why they have the hubris to do such a thing is because they do not believe in an objective moral law, or a Law of Nature. They believe that your rights are given to you by the state. They believe themselves to be what Lewis calls the “conditioners.” They believe that they know better than you, that you cannot be trusted with your money or your freedom.

They throw money at state education, and science, and they believe themselves to be the ones that are to be looked to when there are problems in the country, and sadly they often are by people that think they actually have something to offer them. Why do you think that the administration didn’t address the jobs issue and create a job friendly environment over the last year? Think, if more people went to work more people would probably have health insurance, and if more people had health insurance through their employer they would have had a weaker case. So, they took advantage of the jobs crisis, and they put forth many types of legislation that do anything but create a job friendly environment. Cap and trade, nationalization of the student loan industry and the health care bill are all sure to be private sector job killers as opposed to private sector job creators, because they all burden the taxpayer and the people who are supposed to employ the taxpayers.

Now that you have some context, the next quote, the quote that really caught my eye, will make a lot more sense.

“While we believe that good is something to be invented, we demand of our rulers such qualities as ‘vision’, ‘dynamism’, ‘creativity’, and the like. If we returned to the objective view we should demand qualities much rarer, and much more beneficial – virtue, knowledge, diligence and skill. ‘Vision’ is for sale, or claims to be for sale, everywhere. But give me a man who will do a day’s work for a day’s pay, who will refuse bribes, who will not make up his facts, and who has learned his job.”

-C.S. Lewis

Sadly, many of our rulers lack virtue, knowledge, diligence and skill. They have not done a day’s work for a day’s pay in quite some time, they all take bribes and make up their facts. This is not a ridiculous call to vote everyone out of office, this is a call to vote people in that know why America is great, and that is as Dennis Prager put it in his latest column, because with a small state the “individual can be free and great.”

The People are Tired of Health Care Reform

Posted in Health Insurance, Humanity, Life, Politics with tags , , , on March 12, 2010 by raingeg

Politics, what an interesting subject that is right now. The Democrats are trying their hardest to get something in the way of health care “reform” passed. They are having trouble bringing Democrats on board to vote on the bill. The far left Democrats are upset because the bill lacks the public option and conservative democrats are upset because it has abortion language they don’t like.

Republicans have stood strong and united in opposition to the bill. Right now there is not bipartisan support for this bill, there is bipartisan opposition. I know these are fairly basic talking points but that’s all we really can do right now, aside from calling and emailing our congressmen and women.

To be honest, I’m just a regular guy, a lot of these procedures are going over way my head and the process has become very confusing and convoluted. This is that “pig” that Sarah Palin spoke of during the election, and the Obama administration and the congressional Democrats have smothered it in lipstick. That could be one of the reasons why so many people don’t like what we now know as Obamacare. They are tired of a process that they are not really part of. They are tired of watching as the Democratic party acts based what is “historic” and “monumental.” Democrats are constantly looking out for their legacies and leaving the American people, the very people they represent, out of the picture.

Commentary on the current health insurance debate has become repetitive, and it seems a bit of a waste of my time and energy to write day in and day out about the same thing. I realize that my post quantity has been quite low these days. This is an interesting time in my life. I’ve just started going to a new church and I’ve been working a lot. Sometimes when I get home I just want to relax and that’s what I’ve been doing. I am going on vacation next week, but after I get back I will be back to posting almost every day and I am contemplating starting another blog that will deal solely with issues facing the Tucson area.