Monday, October 11, 2010

How not to clear your sinuses

So I was about to eat leftover homemade pizza for lunch today. I soaked the slices in Frank's Hot Sauce (one of my favs) as I usually do. I'm a fan of hot sauce on pizza, burgers, you name it. The problem was I put a tad too much hot sauce on the pizza. When I swallowed my first bite some of the hot sauce somehow managed to get up my nose through the back of my throat. I could feel it burning the depths of my nose and my sinuses. My nose started to water. Then my eyes started to water. I tried to blow my nose, but that simply aggravated it. Not to mention pulling the burning hot sauce up through my entire nose.

Like a genius, I thought, "I'll just inhale some water through my nose". It felt like my entire face was about to explode.

But my sinuses were about a clear as they have ever been.

So if you ever manage to get hot sauce in your nose, don't do what I did. Ever. Trust me on this one.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Is heavy metal music inherently evil?

I was thinking about heavy metal music this morning as I was listening to The Devil Wears Prada and remembered an old VHS documentary that we used to have when I was a teenager called Hell's Bells. It was pretty good for what it was, but I remember them painting a very negative picture of rock music. I'm pretty sure they flat out condemned rock music in any form as both spiritually dangerous and physically damaging to you. Some obviously might not be helpful to listen to when they're flat out worshiping the Devil, but is the genre as a whole just flat out of the Devil? They seem to think it is (or at least they did at the time the video was made).

So that's my question: Is heavy metal music inherently evil? Can the heaviest sounding music, even with growling vocals, glorify God? I absolutely think it can. I might expound on that in a post, I might not. But I want to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Top 10 book titles that could be heavy metal albums!

I know it's weird and totally random, but here are my top 10 book titles that could be heavy metal albums. [Queue heavy metal riff or Michael Scott "No, God, No!" soundbite]

10. King of Shadows - Susan Cooper
9. Till We Have Faces - C.S. Lewis
8. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness - Andrew Peterson
7. Sea of Monsters - Rick Riordan
6. This Present Darkness - Frank Peretti
5. River of Death - Alistair MacLean
4. I Am Legend - Richard Matheson
3. The Dark is Rising - Susan Cooper
2. Hell House - Richard Matheson
1. Sleeping Murder - Agatha Christie

Leave it to the queen of murder mysteries to be #1.

I've read 8 of these and only partially read 2; Till We Have Faces and Hell House. I had to stop reading Hell House. I cannot recommend that book to anyone.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My Nanowrimo 2009 novel, "Darkness Falls"

With Nanowrimo 2010 fast approaching, I thought I would put my 2009 novel out there for anyone who's interested (and because I'm eager for some input, good and bad). My Nanowrimo novel last year was heavily inspired by a few things:

C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy - Because I had just read Perelandra for the 2nd time.

The Silent Hill series of videogames - I used to play these games. I couldn't stomach them now, so I don't know why there were on my mind at the time of writing it.

Falling Up - "Fangs!" - I was listening to this album almost non-stop last November.

As you can tell those inspirations have almost nothing to do with one another, except some science fiction/thriller themes. But be forewarned, because the Silent Hill games are pretty creepy, my novel is pretty creepy.

I posted my novel on Google Docs, so you can read it at the link below. It's read only, so don't even try and edit it. ;-) If you read it please let me know what you think of it.

Darkness Falls

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Our battle is not against flesh and blood...

I'm not in the habit of dwelling on Satan. Yes he's real, yes he's powerful. But our God is infinitely more powerful. I actually don't think of Satan often at all. I'm aware that he and his demons are out there lying, deceiving, stealing, destroying. But Christ has crushed the serpent's head. His fate is sealed.

I've found two songs particularly helpful though, and they deal with Satan. The first (which I posted a few months ago) is Project 86's Destroyer. It's a song to Satan. One verse says:

The lives that you thought that were yours to devour
Destroyer, the tables have turned in this hour
The plagues you unleashed, every vice that you fed
Shall be visited here tenfold on your head!!

The musical style of Project 86 makes that verse (and the whole song) sound like a victorious battle cry. You want to shout in defiance of Satan's schemes. You may even find yourself hating your sin more, knowing that Christ has accomplished this victory.

The other song I heard more recently and is very different from this song by P86, and it's the reason for this post. It's called Son of the Morning by Oh, Sleeper from their album of the same name. I'm going to post the lyrics in their entirety at the end.

The song is a conversation between Satan and God. When I listen to it I find it absolutely chilling. I don't often think of the absolute hatred Satan has for God and his sons and daughters. And I think we can often focus on how much people like us. And if we're Christians, we can forget how much hatred there can be towards Christ in the world. I think this song, while not glorifying it, shows the reality of the absolute hatred that Satan has for Christ and those who follow him.

God's words in this song are few, but they're enough. It reminds me of Satan standing before God asking permission to torment Job. Satan likes to talk a lot and makes a lot of claims (Job will curse you). God says very little (you may do this, but not this). You know who's words have the authority.

I find this song incredibly encouraging. Without Christ, this is who's side I would be on. I would not be in Christ's kingdom. I would be in the kingdom of darkness, sharing the dreadful (and deserved) fate of this fallen angel. He is my enemy. My enemy isn't my coworker or that old friend who hurt my feelings. My battle is spiritual. But Christ has won that battle, and the war. In Christ I am a new creation. I am no longer a slave to sin. I am no longer damned. Christ's perfect life, substitutionary death and his glorious resurrection have secured my fate. And it's one of hope and new life.

You may not be used to seeing lyrics like this from a Christian band (yes, they're Christian). And it may not have the same impact reading as it does listening to it (the singer is a screamer). But the contrast between what I know of God and hearing/reading the words below are striking. If Satan can have such hatred towards God and his sons, and knowing that God's love for me is infinitely more...well, it's enough to make you weep in thankfulness.

Oh, Sleeper - Son of the Morning

And they call him the son of the morning...
I am the rival. I am the one who speaks in whisper.
Hear me now, dear, weak forgiver.
Hear me now, weak forgiver. Hear me now...
Don’t send an angel to face the devil.
You’re wasting power on grace. A maggot will always seek to feed from the grave,
where I’ll lead them and teach them to feast on the skin that defeats them, the skin they crave.

"If you could see like me you’d see you haven’t won anything.
If you could see like me you’d see, it’s by my grace that you’re breathing.
If you could see like me you’d see you haven’t won anything.
If you could see like me you’d see."

Every night I start my rise, climbing high into the morning sky,
but soon after I lose your bride and I damn your son for stealing my light.
This world is mine...
They call me the son of the morning. They call me the son of the morning.
I can mound all your fallen past the clouds as they roll in,
and when I do I will claim your throne through all these cowards you call your sons.
I am the lord of air and my dawn will last forever.
Go on pouring out because in the end I will have them.

"If you could see like me you’d see you haven’t won anything.
If you could see like me you’d see, it’s by my grace that you’re breathing.
If you could see like me you’d see you haven’t won anything.
If you could see like me you’d see, your precious light is fading.
Your light is fading."

CSL’s Screwtape on Christians, Politics, and Social Justice

(C.S. Lewis wrote The Screwtape Letters from the perspective of a senior demon. For instance the “Enemy” is God.)

“About the general connection between Christianity and politics, our position is more delicate.

Certainly we do not want men to allow their Christianity to flow over into their political life, for the establishment of anything like a really just society would be a major disaster.

On the other hand, we do want, and want very much, to make men treat Christianity as a means; preferably, of course, as a means to their own advancement, but, failing that, as a means to anything—even to social justice.

The thing to do is to get a man at first to value social justice as a thing which the Enemy demands, and then work him on to the stage at which he values Christianity because it may produce social justice. For the Enemy will not be used as a convenience. Men or nations who think they can revive the Faith in order to make a good society might just as well think they can use the stairs of Heaven as a short cut to the nearest chemist’s shop. Fortunately it is quite easy to coax humans round this little corner.”

HT: Justin Taylor

Thursday, July 15, 2010

With death You paid my ransom

I was listening to Haste the Day's new album Attack of the Wolf King this morning and a thought struck me during the song Travesty which contains this line:

"You cover me! I am spent and with death you paid my ransom."

The album, which I haven't dug into that much, is apparently a concept album. From

With such a unique name as Attack of the Wolf King, it is no surprise to learn that it is a concept album. It tells of a herd of sheep protected from a pack of wolves by righteous lions. To open with "Wake Up The Sun," a group of individuals (the sheep) are running from an unnamed threat, but feel that their "hearts are empty." "We've tried to run, but it's no use and all this time we've reached the point of desperation." With "Dog Like Vultures" comes the arrival of the lions. "Our eyes are upon you and we will protect you, be assured no fang will breach your fleece." This story can be taken as a basic analogy of our weakness, and Jesus' willingness to protect us. In "Travesty," the sheep proclaim their praise to the lions, as we to our Savior, "With love that the blindest eyes will see, you cover the darkest part of me."

This post isn't about the album, but about that one line from Travesty that hit me, "With death You paid my ransom." And thinking about it in terms of the story of the album, I placed myself in that flock. Surrounded and without hope of escape. Then I thought of the Mel Gibson movie Ransom, where his son is kidnapped, and the kidnapper demanded something (a ransom) in order for Mel's character to get his son back.

Then I started to think about what a ransom is. Typically it's something that is demanded to get something returned that doesn't belong to them, such as a kidnapper with a kidnap victim. The dictionary says ransom is "the redemption of a prisoner, slave, or kidnapped person, of captured goods, etc., for a price." But our situation is much different. We weren't pulled into sin against our will. We dove right in. We ran for it. We were slaves. Not against our will, but willfully. We turned our backs on our Father. But a ransom was needed to rescue us from a bondage we placed ourselves in.

That's pretty offensive. But what did our Father do? The ransom, the only payment acceptable for our sin, was death. Our death. Our blood. But instead of demanding our death, instead of demanding our blood be shed, our Father gave His Son. Can you imagine that exchange? I was thinking of it in terms of the sheep surrounded by the wolves in the story of this album. The Lion makes the exchange. "My Son for their lives." But what the Wolf King didn't realize was that he was giving up all rights to those sheep. They belonged to the Lion now. I wonder if he realized what was happening. I wonder if he realized the game had changed forever. I'm certain he realized it when the Righteous One came bursting forth, very much alive, from that tomb.

I'll end this with more words from the song Travesty. It's very rare that a metal song with screaming/growling vocals can move me to tears. This song does. It's worth a listen. Try and hear the screaming verses as desperate cries to God for aide, and the beautifully sung chorus as a praise of thanks when rescue has come. Our ransom is paid in full. All praise be to God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

As I am met with travesty,
and I am broken and I am empty.
And through it all I can see your face.
With words unspoken
I hear your voice and I see the hand,
The hand that writes it all.
You've called the wind to show its worth.
You've called the sun to brag about its warmth.
Because you are the writer!
Because you are the soul of the world.

You cover the darkest part of me
with a look that's sure to set the captives free.
With love that the blindest eyes will see
You cover the darkest part of me.

Full lyrics:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost: The End

I figure this would be a safe place to post my thoughts on the finale so I don't spoil anything on Twitter or elsewhere for people who haven't seen it yet.

There are two types of people in this world. Those who love Neil Diamond, and those who don't. Those immortal words by Bob Wiley in What About Bob? sum up the Lost finale pretty well. You either loved it, or you feel like you wasted 6 years (seasons) of your life. Count me in the "loved it" group.

My view of the meaning of the show changed in this final season. For 5 seasons we were posed numerous questions about the the island. The Smoke Monster. Jacob. Electromagnetism. Miracles. Free Will. Destiny. Redemption. Some of these are products of the show. Some are real questions in life. Did they adequately explain the island mysteries to everyone's satisfaction? No. Did they explain these life mysteries? No, but has anything outside of Scripture been able to truly explain those things?

I discovered this final season that Lost was more about the people than the actual island. That's kind of a no brainer, but hear me out. Was the island an important part of the story? Absolutely. But was it necessary for us to understand all the mysteries of the island and this 2000 year conflict between Jacob, the island's protector, and his brother, who felt betrayed by his "mother" and wanted to go his home which lied beyond the sea? I don't think so.

We know the island has been around awhile. And by awhile I mean thousands upon thousands of years. Jacob was the protector of it for approx. 2000 years. He was born 2000 years prior to the events of the show, and once he grew up his "mother" made him the unwilling protector. But Jacob wasn't the first protector of this myterious place, and he wasn't the last. And Ben's comment to Hurley, when Hurley was expressing his frustration about being the protector, and said, "We can't even get off the island!", answered pretty much every lingering question about the island during Jacob's reign. "That's just what Jacob did." Hurley could make the island open to everyone to come and visit if they wanted. He could make it so you didn't need permission to come or leave the island. Hurley could run things differently.

So here we have a show that is basically giving us a snapshot in the "life" of this mysterious place and of one of its protectors. Now, after the finale, I am pretty much convinced that Jacob was not necessarily a good guy in all respects, and his brother was not necessarily a bad guy. They were just like the people Jacob brought to the island. Flawed and shaped by their own personal experiences. Who wouldn't be pretty messed up if we found out the woman we thought was our mother actually killed our biological mother and has been lying to us for years that the island is all there is? And then we find out that there is more out there and we belong there but when we want to leave our own brother throws us into a cave which turns us into a smoke monster, destroying our humanity? Yeah, I'd probably be pretty ticked off too. Granted he murdered his faux mother, but still, she had lied to him about almost everything. Not an excuse to murder, but it explains his motivation for doing what he eventually did.

So we've only seen a glimpse in the existence of this island. Who built the big statue that Jacob lived under? Who made the cave? Who made the island?! The answers to stuff like that are above and beyond the point. The island is mysterious. We know that. It's very old. Thousands of years old. But the point of the show isn't about the island. To go into all that, while it would make some people happy, would be to derail the story of these characters. We were told pretty much everything we needed to know about the major players over these 6 seasons. The other stuff wasn't really necessary to get us to the end. We don't NEED to know who made the island or how it came to be. The survivors of Oceanic flight 815 were brought to the island so Jacob could prove a point to his brother (that people could do good), but also to find a replacement for himself should his brother kill him (which he did). It's kind of unfair to these people, but in reality their lives weren't anything to write home about.

But in the end, for all the misery most of them experienced throughout their lives, most of them found redemption (albeit a worldly version). This is not a Christian show by a longshot, despite the sometimes heavy Christian themes (i.e., Christian Shephard leading them into the afterlife). But that's no surprise. It wasn't meant to be. It was a show about flawed people finding redemption, despite the situation they were pulled into, or more likely because of it. It was a show about the faithless finding faith, and about the faithful holding on to faith. Not a religious faith necessarily, but a general faith and hope.

A friend described it like the movie Signs. It can be easy to be disappointed with that movie if you focus too much on the aliens and the water being their weakness. But ulimately that movie was a story about faith lost and faith restored through incredibly outlandish circumstances. Lost should be viewed in the same manner. If we get too hung up on the smoke monster and the heiroglyphics and the giant statue and the electromagnetism, we'll miss the point.

Favorite moments:

Charlie and Claire's "reunion". If you didn't cry at that then, as another review said, you have a rock for a heart. :-)

Hurley and Ben: Island protectors! I wish we could have seen them as the island protector and advisor. Ben as a new Richard would be great. He really redeemed himself. And his complexity really makes sense considering he felt a little used by the island's former protector, Jacob.

Ben and Locke's reconciliation: Ben confessing, Locke saying, "I forgive you". Powerful moment for both characters.

Hurley and Ben at the church: Ben: "You were a great #1." Hurley: "You were a great #2." Another great moment.

I'm sure I'll think of more. But I teared up a lot in the final hour as characters started to have their big clarity moment and the reconciliations came. This is what the show is about. Characters finding redemption and healing and reconciliation with themselves and each other.

NOTE: One point of confusion I've been hearing today is that "they were dead the whole time!", and those people aren't very happy with how it ended because of that. But they weren't dead the whole time. This wasn't The Sixth Sense. If you watch Jack's conversation with his father again you'll see that they're all dead now (or about to die), in the sideways alt universe, but they all died at different times. As Christian said, some die sooner, like Boone, Shannon and Charlie, while others died later, like Hurley, Ben and Jack. The sideways reality was like limbo, a reality that they had created (it's a mystery how), and where they hung out waiting for the rest to die. Once they had all died at their various points in life, they would converge in the church and move on to the afterlife. We saw some of the deaths during the show, like Boone, Shannon, Charlie, Sun and Jin, Sayid and Jack. We didn't see a lot of them though, like Hurley (the new protector of the island), Ben (Hurley's Richard-like advisor), Sawyer and others. But they all ended up in the same place. Yeah it's a little Unitarian, but it is a secular TV show.