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.


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