Friday, July 16, 2010

An Oak Tree In Late Winter

"...His (Christ) is the kindest, most patient, most steadfast and most conquering love" - Josh Rosenthal

I recently got back from a road trip/youth camp with some of my students through the Republic of Texas and pulled in my driveway to realize that the grass in my yard grows faster here in CO that it did in Lubbock. I just mowed right before I left (which was the 2nd mow in a week). I secretly suspect my neighbor of creating a hybrid fertilizer/steroid that he tests on my yard when I am gone...but that is beside the point.

I find it hard to mow because the motivation to mow is not there until I start to fear a notice from the HOA. I get easily distracted with the day to day things at the church that I let more of my free time activities slide away unnoticed. Writing this blog has been one of those activities that is an escape for me and I had lost the motivation to write anything because I am always looking ahead to the next thing on the calendar and do not take enough time to simply sit and reflect over the previous commitments that I have experienced. I am still trying to find time to mentally unpack and process all that I experienced in Costa Rica this summer with the Bribri people.

Sometimes something has to hit me over the head hard to reignite a passion such as writing blogs, running, or any other activity. Finally that motivation hit me when I checked my mailbox after returning from Texas. It was Josh Rosenthal's new book (also his first) An Oak Tree Late In Winter (Ten Vignettes & A Triptych). I was excited to read the book knowing that Josh was flexing his creative muscle in a venue that is slightly foreign to him, and if any of you were wondering how well a musician could write a book let me tell you...very well.

Josh has a relaxed style that makes you feel less like you are reading a book and more like you are enjoying coffee with an old and intimate friend. I use the terms "old" and "intimate" for a reason. Josh has now reservation of being very familiar with his reader and letting you see not just his actions (rather heroic, selfish, or shameful) but he also allows the reader to have insight into his thought process while making these decisions. Josh does not set himself up to be the hero of his story, very often he is the antagonist raging against the mercies that are given to him by God.

I takes a lot of courage to be as vulnerable as Rosenthal is in this book. He is not censored, polished, or PC, instead he throws out the mask of having it all together and achieves something that is hard to do in the realm of Christianity and that is to be real.

Josh's story reads like a more relatable Blue Like Jazz because he does not deal with how things in the world affect him, but how he(we) live everyday in need of a grace that can transform how we view the world around us, rather that be the pain of a broken family, the cynicism of dealing with a religious subculture, or the apathy that calls us to numb ourselves to all of these feelings. Josh calls us to feel these things, to be honest about where we are, and to seek comfort in Christ and in His church.

This book is easily one of the most challenging books I have read, not in a way that pushes us to stop what we are doing and loading us up with guilt for doing it, but in a way that encourages me to seek vulnerability and community. It is clear when reading Josh's story and how it so closely mirrors my own story (not in names and places but in the need for real friendships and grace).

This book is about more than just a kid who moved from Fort Worth to Lubbock and then to Utah. It is a story about how God is directing our lives and showing us our need for Him. I feel like I could easily continue writing about this book until this review becomes unbearable to read so I will shut it off.

So to any of you reading this who are on the fence about rather to order this book let me strongly encourage you to. It is phenomenal, in fact I give it ten out of ten cross-stitched lions (this is a purposefully placed inside joke that you will not get unless you order this book...intriguing right?)

Also, to Josh, thank you for your willingness to be transparent and writing this book. It has encouraged me and challenged me more than most books or stories ever have. Your story is worth reading and it is exciting to see the masterpiece that God is painting with our pain.

One more note: If you visit Josh's online store here and use the promo code BLOG you can receive 10% off the book. You can order it by itself or with the albums that inspired this book or you can order it in pairs so you have one to give away to a friend who need to hear this story.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Bible In 90 Days: Day 2

So I have decided to try to make this a semi-regular thing over the next 90 days. I am not promising that I will be posting these observations everyday, but as close as possible I will be...

That being said I hope that these observations can help you to realize all of the exciting things that take place in the bible are exciting and not in the least bit boring.

Observations from the reading for Day 2 (Gen 17:1-28:29):
-God makes a covenant with Abram that involves circumcision
-Abram takes all of his servants to get circumcised, I would not be excited to be one of his servants.
-Abraham laughs when God tells him that he is going to have a kid
-Abraham gets circumcised at the age of 99...crazy
-God and to angels visit Abraham
-A debate of 'did not/did to' breaks our between God and Sarah when she laughs over the idea of having a kid (which is apparently something that Abraham and Sarah had in common).
-God does not display the best bargaining skills when Abraham is pleading for Sodom (50 about about 30, 20, 10)
-The men in Sodom have a MESSED UP welcome wagon going around...(i.e. trying to rape God and angels is not a great way to save your city)
-Lot is willing to give up his daughter's virginity to the men of Sodom
-Lot's wife turns into salt
-Lot's daughters get him drunk to sleep with him...these story lines are better than most soap operas...pretty sure this movie would be rated themes and what not.
-Abraham breaks out with the "wife is my sister" bit.
-A very old lady gives birth to a son.
-She laughs about having a kid again...this time not because of how ridiculous it sounds but out of joy.
-Sarah sends away her servant and the kid she had with her husband.
-When they were out of water God provided a well for them.
-Abraham is willing to sacrifice his only son
-God provides a ram for them
-Abraham's wife dies and he refuses to take land for free
-Rebekah gets a nose ring....'see mom, it's not a big deal'
-Isaac and his wife have two say they had a rivalry is a understatement.
-Their oldest son (Esau) is red and hairy....apparently a leprechaun.
-Esau trades a his birthright for a cup of soup....hope is was good soup hairy man
-Jacob steals the blessing from Isaac.
-The blessing is a beautiful word that would make Shakespeare jealous.
-He steals it my covering himself in goat hairy was this guy.
-Jacob has a tripy dream involving a stairway to heaven...he calls the place "House of God"

If you have never read the Bible all the way through I hope you will join me for it.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Bible in 90 Days: Day 1

Today I am starting out ona journey to read the Bible over a 90 Day period. Today was Day 1.

I read Genesis 1:1-16:16.

For those who do not think that the Bible is exciting, here is some of what happens in Day 1:

-Naming Animals
-People Fall In Love
-A man writes a song for a woman (first love song written)
-The fall
-First fasion show (made of fig about living green)
-A Game of hide and seek
-People blaming others
-First gospel presentation (Gen 3:15)
-First sacrifice (3:21)
-An angel with a sword that is on fire...sweet!
-Someone becoming invincible (4:15)
-The start of prayer (4:26)
-Lots of baby making
-Someone disappears (Enoch)
-A man is named "Ham"...unfortunate
-Lots of violence around the world (6:11)
-Promise of destruction
-40 day rain storm (must have been in Seattle)
-Everyone but Noah and the animals drown...nust sure why this is a big story in children's church
-First exclimation point in the Bible...right after an olive leaf
-Noah loses his pet dove
-Some of the animals on the ark are sacrificed (which is why he took 7 of those and not just two)
-God promises seasons and harvest as long as the earth endures...which won't be forever
-God tells Noah and his family to make more babies
-A Rainbow
-Noash gets drunk ans passes out naked
-Someone else is named Nimrod...worse than Ham
-God introduces a lot of new languages
-The first construction site gets abandoned (Babel)
-A Great promise is made to Abram
-Abram obeyed immediately
-A famine
-Abram calims his wife is his sister...look like counseling for those two
-Abram and Lot go in seperate directions
-Abram becomes an action hero and rescues Lot
-Abram tries to get a son through another woman...which he does...but that does not sway God's promise to him

I mean seriously....this is day 1. The bible is not boring
89 days to go.