Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

TedashiiMusic Review:  This Time Around – Tedashii
***

Tedashii follows his 2014 album Below Paradise with this 7-song EP.  He describes the project as completely different from anything he’s ever done before, but still authentically who he is. It features the kind of optimism that comes from overcoming the tragedy of losing his one-year old son in 2013. The project shows his growth in all ways – the sound, lyrics and themes. It shows his growth as an individual and artist, his progression as an artist and being himself.  Although he is still dealing with the tragedy, the new music exemplifies who he has become after everything he has gone through.

Tedashii worked with several producers on this effort, including GAWVI.  Three songs were released prior to the EP release date, the first of which was “Be Me”, produced by GAWVI, in which he states “No matter what happens, I’m still unashamed”.

The second single released, my favorite on the EP, and favorite song thus far this year, is the celebratory “Jumped Out the Whip”, which he debuted at the 2015 Dove Awards. It is also produced by GAWVI.   Watch the video here. The third single was “808”, a slow jam that is a love song for his wife. She makes his heart beat like an 808 drum machine.

You, you got my heart
You got my heart goin’ down in flames
And it’s beatin’
And it’s beatin’ like an 808
Like boom, boom, boom, boom, boom  

The other new songs are:

This Time Around – opens with news clips from today’s headlines, with him singing that with all that is going on in the world these days, we can make it better this time around. He’s tired of all of the funerals taking place around him. He’s realistic, but optimistic as well about a better future.  This is a slow jam that includes some backing female vocals.

I Get It – he really brings it on this track, which features some additional vocals. He gets it, and hopes we do too.

In My Life – a very different track from the others, this acapella number features a female lead vocal, with effective backing vocals. She sings that as long as you’re here with me, I can do anything. Though creative and different, it’s still my least favorite of the seven new songs, and perhaps the one misstep here.

I’m Good – Tedashii sings lead and backing vocals over a guitar backing. It’s an optimistic closer with a very catchy chorus that will leave you humming it throughout the day and will sound great live in concert. Behind “Jumped Out the Whip”, it’s my favorite of the new songs musically, and my favorite lyrically.

music news

  • Watch Bono and Eugene Peterson talk about their common love of the Psalms.
    http://www.relevantmagazine.com/slices/watch-bono-and-eugene-peterson-talk-about-psalms
  • Jumped Out the Whip Video. Here is the brand new video of my favorite song of the year, “Jumped Out the Whip” by Tedashii.
  • Illuminate.  Listen to “Illuminate” a new songs from Lecrae, featuring Dria.
  • Melancholy Mood. Listen to “Melancholy Mood”, the first song released from Bob Dylan’s upcoming Fallen AngelsDylan -Fallen Angels
  • Ride with You. Did you see Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Dion perform this song from his 30th solo album New York is My Home recently on The Tonight Show?
  • How was “In Christ Alone” Written? Watch this interview with the songwriters Stuart Townend and Keith Getty on the 15th anniversary of this wonderful modern hymn.
  • Like Any Prince. Jon Bloom writes about follow Minnesota native Prince on the night of his death.  Denny Burk adds his thoughts about Prince here.  Mike Cosper adds his thoughts here. Watch Bruce Springsteen open his April 23 show in Brooklyn by covering Prince’s “Purple Rain”.
  • Artists and Poets. Watch this talk by Lecrae, in which he inspires us all to see the magic inside a personal story put to poetry and a poem put to song.
  • Carrie Underwood on American Idol Finale. Carrie Underwood performed “Something in the Water” with a brief interlude of “Amazing Grace” on the series finale of American Idol.
  • Watch the video of the Newsboys song “Hero”, from their new album Love Riot.

Music Quotes:  

  • People get mad when you don’t fit in their boxes. Boxes were made for products not people. Lecrae
  • If Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why is there a song about him? Crowder

Lecrae Quote

Song of the Week  I Saw Her Standing There – Paul McCartney and Jimmy Fallon

Watch the host of The Tonight Show join the former Beatle onstage in Vancouver April 20 for the Beatles classic “I Saw Her Standing There”.


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Movie Review ~ Mother’s Day

Mother's DayMother’s Day, rated PG-13

Zero Stars

It’s been a while since I’ve given a film zero stars, but this one certainly deserves it. It’s not worthy of a full review and certainly not worth your hard-earned money.

This is the third ensemble film for director Garry Marshall (following Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, neither of which we saw). Among the many actors and actresses in this film are Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, Jason Sudeikis and Timothy Olyphant. But the writing here is truly dreadful, certainly not worthy of the cast assembled, and giving the standard faith-based film a run for their money in the worst script category.

The writers (four are listed in the credits) tell us about the following situations – a divorced couple in which the former husband marries an attractive woman much younger than him; a single father with two daughters trying to move forward a year after his wife and their mom died; two sisters, one who is married to an Indian but has lied to her parents  about him and about them to him; the other sister is in a lesbian relationship but has lied to her parents about it and a young unmarried couple who have a child together. The writers try to pull every trick to emotionally manipulate the viewer, but the film is just a mess. All of the stories are based around the theme of Mother’s Day.

This is a truly bad film with no moral compass. The only reason for posting this short review is to warn you to run, don’t walk away from this film. With any luck, this film will be mostly forgotten by the time Mother’s Day rolls around next week.


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

book reviews

Core ChristianityCore Christianity: Finding Yourself in God’s Story by Michael Horton. Zondervan. 192 pages. 2016
****

The purpose of this new book by Westminster Seminary California professor and theologian Michael Horton is to help the reader understand the reason for their hope as a Christian so that they can invite others into the conversation.  He wants believers to know what they believe and why, a phrase those familiar with Horton will have heard often on his long-running radio program The White Horse Inn. 

Horton, who has also written larger works of theology (The Christian Faith and Pilgrim Theology), offers an apologetic or defense, for the Christian faith, covering the essential and basic beliefs that all Christians share. It is written in an easily understandable manner, and as such, could be read by a relatively new believer. It is theologically spot-on, as you would expect from Horton.

Horton begins by asking the question why is doctrine important? Why can’t we just love Jesus? For the framework for the book, he uses the following “four “D’s”:

  • Drama
  • Doctrine
  • Doxology
  • Discipleship

He writes that oftentimes we hear Christians tell their story and how God is a part of it. But that’s an incorrect way of looking at things. It‘s not so much that He is a part of our stories, but that we are a part of His.

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

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Questions that make you go “Hmmm….”:

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articlesslacker

  • Extreme Work: Striving and Sloth. Robert Alexander writes “Rather than seeing work as something God has given us, we are prone to two opposite but equivalent errors: striving and sloth. Workaholics (the strivers) and slackers (the slothful) are controlled by fear, pride, and/or unbelief – rather than seeing themselves as imitators of God.”
  • Six Ways God’s at Work in You — At Work. Keith Welton writes “In reality, the workforce is not only how God works through you; it is a place where God works inside of you, conforming you to the image of Christ. He may feel distant, but he’s not. He is using the difficulties and pressures in your job right now to focus you in at least six areas.”
  • Faith and Work. This sermon, from Tim Keller, is the seventh sermon in Redeemer Presbyterian Church’s current series “Where We are Going: The City and the Mission”. It’s a series focused on Redeemer’s gospel based core values and is part of a special season at Redeemer called “Rise”.
  • The Calling Course. Dan Cumberland has posted three helpful videos in his Calling Course. Here’s the first one “What We Talk About When We Talk About Calling”.
  • Switching Fields: From Professional Soccer to Pastoral Ministry. Former soccer player Gavin Peacock writes “But the Lord gave me another calling still: to be a minister of the gospel. I’ve been a Christian since I was 18, but the call to pastoral ministry came 10 years ago.”
  • In this “Minute from Maxwell”, John Maxwell states a mentor is one who “goes the way, knows the way and shows the way”.
  • When Work Feels Fruitless. Leah Hollingsworth writes about being called to the work of a mother.
  • The Key to Great Companies. Dave Ramsey talks about creating an amazing company culture by oversharing with your team.
  • Affordable Housing Should Reflect God’s Heart. Angela Shepherd interviews Matthew Rooney, chief operating officer of MDG Design + Construction, an affordable housing construction and development firm in New York City, about his work.

CONFLICT:

  • In this “Minute with Maxwell”, John Maxwell states that if you are going to lead people you are going to have conflict.  You need to embrace it.
  • Dealing with Conflict in Healthy and Biblical Ways. Dave Kraft writes “Knowing how to deal openly and honestly with conflict with coworkers, friends and family is critical to good leadership.”
  • 4 Rules to Prevent Destructive Conflict. Alan Zimmerman writes “You must be extremely careful about the words you use in any conflict situation.  They can literally make or break any chance you have of resolving the conflict.” Here are three more rules.

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

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RECOMMENDED RESOURCES:

Poverty, Inc.Poverty, Inc.
****

I recently watched this thought-provoking documentary. The title of it could well have been (if it had not already been used), “When Helping Hurts”.  It looks at what is called the “poverty industry”. Yes, when there is a natural disaster, aid (food, clothing, etc.) is needed. However, what has happened in African, Haiti and other places is that the aid continues after the immediate need. And rather than the local citizens then beginning to provide for themselves, growing local businesses, etc., the aid comes in from people like us, with good intentions, but ultimately hurts the people we are trying to help. On top of that, many in the “poverty industry” are getting rich.

Watch this film, which is available through Amazon and iTunes. You may come away feeling differently about providing aid (I know I did), and the organizations doing so.

To find out more about the film go to the official site.

CHRISTIAN LIVING:anger

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God Moves in Mysterious Ways

God moves in mysterious waysWilliam Cowper struggled mightily with depression, which led to several suicide attempts. However, he has left us with some wonderful hymns. One that is often quoted in books I read is “God Works in Mysterious Ways”, and this verse:

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

Tim Challies writes of the hymn that it is a combination of assertions about God’s goodness, sovereignty and wisdom along with commands to take courage and trust in him. Cowper’s use of the metaphors of storms, mines, smiles, and flowers illustrate this meaning in a timeless way. The hymn is a beautiful expression of the kind of faith that sustained Cowper through long periods of darkness and despair.”

I thought of this hymn recently after a visit with some dear friends from church, whom we had gone to visit to encourage. She has been battling stage 4 colon cancer for almost three years, longer now than the prognosis for life she had been given by the doctors. And about the time she was diagnosed with cancer, he had a heart attack and resulting surgery. I tell you that we had gone to encourage them, but if truth be told, it was them that encouraged us, through their courage, faith, trust in God’s sovereignty and goodness.

This has happened before. Many years ago as Hospice volunteers, we would go to a local hospital once a week to serve the patients in Hospice care and their families. Inevitably, we would be surprised at how we were encouraged, especially by the family members as they sat with their loved ones during the last weeks of their lives. Yes, God does work in mysterious ways.

Recently, as we visited with our friends we heard stories of God’s bountiful provision. We heard of the love and generosity of her sister, who has provided a place for them to live, and of a gracious gift from the OSF Sisters of Charity who covered their medical expenses for a year when they didn’t have insurance, because he couldn’t work after his heart attack and surgery.

He talked about how much Psalm 118 meant to him at this time. In God’s providence, as I am reading through the Scriptures, that was my text for the following morning. Verse one reads:

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
For his steadfast love endures forever! 

Our friends are hopeful, but realistic. They seemed at peace, even though she fears the pain that she worries will come toward the end.   They pray the prayer that never fails – Thy will be done.

I was particularly impressed with the trust and peace that they communicated to us, and also the concern they have for others. For example, he regularly sends texts of encouragement to another dear friend in our church whose wife is dealing with cancer. This reminds me of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

As I walked away from their front door I was hit by how God does work in mysterious ways. Here, I had come to encourage them, and their strong faith in the Lord encouraged me. He had done it again.


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My Review of The Jungle Book

The Jungle BookThe Jungle Book, rated PG
****

This “live action”, heavily computer generated, film is released on the 49th anniversary of the 1967 animated film, the last cartoon feature overseen by Walt Disney, and released one year after his death.

The new film is directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Elf, Chef). The screenplay, based on the book by Rudyard Kipling, is by Justin Marks. The film is darker than parents may anticipate, and too scary for very young children. While an adaptation of the 1967 film, (which I’ve never seen), the filmmakers chose to include elements from Kipling’s novel to make the film more adventurous and dangerous. Jungle locations in India were photographed and used as reference for the jungle environment in the film.  All the locations in the film are computer-generated VFX.

Mowgli is played by 12 year-old Neel Sethi. When a very young boy, Mowgli’s father was killed in a cave by the large Bengal tiger Shere Khan, voiced by Idris Elba (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom). Shere Khan’s face is badly scarred by fire, which the animals call “red flower”, something they greatly fear. As a result, Shere Khan hates Mowgli and wants revenge.

Mowgli was saved by the black panther Bagheera, voiced by Ben Kingsley. He brings him to a pack of wolves to be raised by mother Akela, voiced by Lupita Nyong’o and father Raksha, voiced by Giancarlo Esposito, where he is known as a mancub. Several times throughout the film we hear Kipling’s poem “The Law of the Jungle” recited by the animals.

But Shere wants Mowgli dead and will kill others until they turn over Mowgli to him. To protect his family from Shere, Mowgli decides to leave the jungle. He is guided in his journey back to the human village by Bagheera the panther and the honey-loving bear Baloo (hilariously voiced by Bill Murray). Along the way he runs into the huge seductive python Kaa, voiced by Scarlett Johanson, and King Louie, a gigantic ape, voiced by Christopher Walken.  King Louie sings a song from the 1967 film “I Wanna Be Like You”.

The Jungle Book animatedI thoroughly enjoyed this creative film, which utilizes the latest technology, a strong cast and a classic story. I loved seeing all of the jungle animals (the elephants who are revered and bowed down before as the creators of the jungle, birds, monkeys, etc.). My favorite was Baloo the bear, and a great scene is Mowgli and Baloo singing “Bare Necessities”, as they float down the jungle river. That is among the few lighter moments in this often tense film, as Mowgli is being pursued by Shere.

The creative ending song as the credits begin to roll, featuring King Louie, is worth staying in your seats for. A full version of “Trust in Me (The Python’s Song)” by Kaa follows that over the rest of the credits.

Sadly this was Garry Shandling’s final film, just a few weeks after his March 24 death from a heart attack. Shandling voiced Ikki the porcupine.

Jungle Book 2 has been announced, and is planned for release in 2018.


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Music Review:  Selected Songs – Propaganda Selected Songs Propaganda
****

Propaganda has been described as a poet, political activist, husband, father, academic, and emcee.  In the song “Don’t Listen to Me”, included here, he also tells us that he is the son of a Black Panther with a Mexican spouse and Caucasian best friends. He is a college graduate with teaching credentials, and a rapper who brings a bold message through aggressive battle raps to smooth introspective rhythms. I first heard him via his contributions to some of Lecrae’s songs.   The first of his albums I purchased was his excellent 2014 release Crimson Cord. Five songs from that album are included here in this compilation of eleven of the best songs from his work to date, which includes five studio albums.

Propaganda’s style of rap (poetic, spoken word, etc.) and his excellent use of percussion distinguish him from some of the other artists (Lecrae, Trip Lee, Andy Mineo, KB, Tedashii) that I listen to.  He brings passion to his subject matter, as varied as public education (“Bored of Education”), or what it feels like to a black man when pastors quote the Puritans (“Precious Puritans”), the latter of which particularly got my attention. You see, I love the writings of the Puritans (Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, Matthew Henry, etc.), and use The Valley of Vision (which he mentions in the song) as part of my daily devotional reading. It was good for me – as a middle-age Caucasian male, to hear how pastors quoting some of these writers can impact African Americans (he raps of them being chaplains on slave ships, etc.), something I hadn’t thought of before.

Propaganda will challenge you with his bold messages. It may stretch your mind and heart.  That’s good for me. I highly recommend his music, and this compilation is an excellent introduction if you are not currently familiar with him.

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

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Simply My Window by P.K. Hodel. Xulon Press. 396 pages. 2016simply my window by pam hodel
****

Rarely have I been moved by a book as I was with this one by P.K. Hodel. This eloquently written poetic autobiography is open and at times almost painfully honest as she tells her story. It is written in such a manner that you really feel you know this incredible woman when you get to the end as she shares the amazing life that she and her husband and three children have lived to date.  Although she shares some very difficult times in her life, the book is ultimately hopeful.

Hodel effectively uses the metaphor of a window to describe each season of her life story. She tells us that the book is simply her interpretation of what she has seen from the windows of her life. I enjoyed her use of “Beauty” for God and “Ugly” for Satan. In addition, the names of her husband, children and some others in the book are changed for a variety of reasons. She offers poetic “Lessons Learned” at the end of each chapter.

Each chapter of the book takes the reader to a different place and time in the author’s story, beginning with Wapello, Iowa where she grew up. She tells us that joy in sorrow and alone in happiness would be a primary window of her life, a life that would be marked by early losses where she would find herself in the front bench of the church. She writes “The reality is, we take turns here on the front bench of funeral services. We have a few turns here on the front bench, several to many in the succeeding benches, and then one in the casket. It’s just how it works.”

Her seven year-old brother Teddy died of leukemia and her mother, who never got over the loss of Teddy, died of cancer at only forty-nine, both in the same Burlington, Iowa hospital. Her mother lived for a year after being diagnosed with cancer, a year in which the author writes that her mother taught her to “live one day at a time, living each day to the fullest, simply because we have it to live”.  P.K.’s father would live to marry two more times, women that P.K. loved.

She writes of the church environment in which she was raised, one with Anabaptist roots and a separatist, self-contained Christian culture. She writes that visiting other churches, for example “was questioned, even frowned upon by our church culture. I remember hearing it referred to as ‘spiritual adultery.’”

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