Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Jessa Anderson - Whole [Music Review]

Artist: Jessa Anderson
Album: Whole
Album Length: 10 tracks: 37 minutes, 35 seconds 
Street Date: April 8, 2014
Record Label: None
Genre: Pop
iPod Pick: Idols

Meet Jessa Anderson, in case you have not. I remember the summer I got her debut with BEC recordings ‘Not Myself Anymore’ (which was actually her second record, her first being ‘Fundamentally Broken’)  it pierced me so much I dug out old pictures and took a reflective glance on my life and relationships and prepared to move into the future with renewed strength. Someone said that’s the power music brings with its hearing.

It easy to compare artists when you are writing about their music but Jessa has made that a hard job for me as a music writer. I am not exaggerating, this woman has a unique ‘voice’ (and I mean message/styling here) and it needs to be heard in this generation.

On ‘Whole’ her new record for 2014, the album opens up with ‘Idols’, a song that pulls off the carpet underneath anyone who might have heard the music of Jessa before. It’s a bit of a shocker as once you play the song, you might start to dance like it’s Nelly Furtado’s One Trick Pony, Katy Perry’s Birthday, or La Roux’s ‘I’m Not Your Toy’ that is playing off your stereo. It is also not a shocker in that the heart and ‘weightiness’ which usually accompanies Jessa’s music shines through making it a tension-ed and beautiful work of art. If you never thought you could dance and say a prayer at the same time, ‘Idols’ by Jessa Anderson would prove you wrong.

Stay’ is a song about a relationship about to go sour and at the point the chorus of the song is voiced, day is saved. Ah! I hope. Musically it is lighter than the usual pop/rock sound we heard from Jessa on her last record. ‘Giving Your Heart Away’ the first song I ever heard from this record while Jessa was still raising awareness via Kickstarter, is several layers of emotions and heart. You will definitely leave this one on repeat after your first listen. For the album version, drums are added and I am thankful  for that cause the original work of art was just too heart wrenchingly beautiful.

Everything’ my personal favorite is a dance of worship before God. I have not heard music that climbs, falls and anticipates in a long time since the days of, say Bjork like this one. With ‘Can’t Be Saved’ I want to sit with Jessa over coffee and hear the story behind this song. I love this song so much. It’s kind of dark. It throws at you the unbelievable and yet true. I love it. In fact, I really think this song deserves a great music video.

Caught Me by Surprise’ might remind you of the journal lyrics and whimsy voice styling of Amber Hunter. ‘Never the Same’ combines country and pop in a way that they go well. I like how Jessa uses music to express lyrics. Like on this song the first chorus line goes ‘sometimes you boom like a blast. . .’ and actually the chorus kinds of BOOMs in. Breakdown’ will steal hearts away with lyrics such as ‘when you are the only one left standing, can you really say you've won. ‘Story of Grace’ shows vulnerability and at the same time, very deep worship. The album closes with the title track ‘Whole’. It’s a song that has a ‘Jessa singing to you at a bar’ feel and at the same time a ‘Jessa rendering a Sunday special in church as people come forward for prayer’ feel. It’s got so much room for response and feel and so much to ruminate over. It would make a great life soundtrack for this Easter period as it also offers an amazing story line of the Easter story.

About ‘Whole’ her new project, Jessa writes on her blog “Whole is the project I've always wanted to make. Through this 6-year journey of writing, creating, releasing, and touring, I have pushed myself to be real—to be me. The songs on this record feel so very me, and so very true to life. They are one woman’s perspective to be sure, but sharing that perspective is half the battle. Freely giving of our hearts and minds is what draws us near, what allows us to identify with one another.”

Art shouldn't just point us towards truth, it should leaves us feeling something and that’s what Jessa’s done with Whole. One of the great things about Whole is the artist’s growth since her last record. The sound is different and in a whole new zone. Also is the song writing and poetry. As a reviewer, you are expected to talk about ups and downs of a work of art you come across. Maybe I’m still blown off (and some where above the ground) by this project or maybe it’s just flawless. Honestly I have no downs for this (yet). It’s a press play album unlike Jessa’s last record(Not Myself Anymore) which though I liked, I had to skip some tracks.

You really should get Whole, it’s a complete record. Take it from me nothing is missing from it for the genre it represents. It's Whole.

Get a FREE download here for a limited time (To download, open link then right click and choose 'Save as')

Watch the Music Video for 'Giving Your Heart Away' here

Connect with Jessa Twitter: @Jessaanderson

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Ken Davis - Secrets of Dynamic Communication [Book Review]

Secrets of Dynamic Communication by Ken Davis has proven to be a great resource not just for public speaking but also in preparing reports, articles and also a book for me. It is filled with guidelines and instructions on how not to muddle up your main point or idea in the sea of information to be communicated.

Ken Davis author (stand-up comedian and founder of the SCORRE conference) has helped many authors, corporate executives and professional athletes develop their speaking skills over the past 3 decades.  Ken sets to do this in Secrets of Dynamic Communication for the reader with lots of details and guidelines.

Though the book is written in a workshop/ workbook type of format with assignments to help connect and aid participation with the reader, I found it quite difficult for a read through like other books on communication books I have read. Whether you see this as an advantage or disadvantage, Secrets of Dynamic Communication by Ken Davis surely will do what it is set to do which is to help deliver your message with clarity to your audience. A great resource for anyone looking to take their public speaking skills and general communication skills up a notch.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Max Lucado - You'll Get Through This [Book Review]

I have read Lucado since I knew the worth of books. I remember finishing “The Applause of Heaven” and taking a long walk with a friend. We talked about our expectations of heaven and lots of things beyond this place. I remember finishing “Travelling Light” one cold morning in my sophomore year in college. As I read the last chapter holding the book with one hand, I rummaged for my school things, finished my mug of cocoa and headed out the door wishing my roommate a great day ahead with my eyes still glued to the book. I remember finishing “A cure for the common life” and heading into the discussion section at the back of the book. It felt so surreal. Like my whole life was laid before me as I pulled out my journal and wrote, planned and dreamed. It was a moment I would never forget, a defining one. I can remember a lot more and each book had been an experience except a few I wish I didn't bother starting and of which I am not mentioning these titles.

Every moment with Max is one worth marking down. No doubts, you want Max in your house. You two continually carrying an ongoing discussion on life, faith and the things that matter most throughout the day. In fact you would opt to be a baby again and hear Max read you bed time stories. In fact there’s a modern joke that goes around that: if Max lived in bible times, he would be one of the book authors of the bible. No doubt Max Lucado is an excellent writer and he has earned that title over the years.

You will get through this. It won’t be painless. It won’t be quick. But God will use this mess for good. In the meantime don’t be foolish or na├»ve. But don’t despair either. With God’s help you will get through this. 

This is the central premise of Max’s new book and he does justice to it well. In a part, You Will Get Through This is also a study on the life of the biblical Joseph. You will love it as Max draws modern, relevant and practical insights from the age old story.

You Will Get Through is very practical and actionable, reminiscent of all we loved in The Cure For Common Life and yet so inspiring the usual Max style. In an interview with Ken Coleman of Catalyst, (a tribe of next generation leaders) discussing his new book, Max says “Gratitude is the vitamin C for a tough day”. Max’s new book is power combo of lots of spiritual and practical vitamins. You need this. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Charlotte Gambill - Turnaround God [Book Review]

That I want to give this book a five star and end this review isn't because I’m a fanatic. In fact ‘Turnaround God’ was my first contact with Charlotte Gambill, the author. I had never read or heard anything from her before this. 

First, a fact to be established: ‘Turnaround God’ isn't just worth the read; it is one to be handled with urgency. Charlotte has something vital to say to this generation of Christians that I think few or no ther authors are saying in recent times. So pulling back the urge to just rave and say ‘Go get the book’, I will be professional and review this book in two parts, the writing style and the content.

The Writing
I read ‘Turnaround God’ with so much surprise as most preachers and pastors [I have read] don’t really get to have a distinct writing voice or style. Most times they tend to fall flat on the page and as a reader, you read the book at the mercy of what they have to say into your life. But right from the first page of ‘Turnaround God’, I noticed Charlotte Gambill immediately begged to differ from this stereotype. 

While not extremely ‘poetic’ like the likes of Max Lucado, Rob Bell and the Canadian pastor Mark Buchanan, Charlotte’s writing is bold, upbeat, illustrative, imaginative (in fact very imaginative) and punch line oriented. You would love it. She’s good with one liners, does a good job of telling the right stories at the appropriate time and uses real life stories and issues as spiritual allegories. A clap for her with this craft cause it helps the message stick.

Reading Charlotte for me was like having a seaside coffee conversation with a friend who was teaching me new things say ‘how to swim’. And in that conversation, she never hesitated to get us to leave the coffee for a while and head over to the river for some practice. Yes, it was that engaging and practical. No dull moments at all.

In ‘Turnaround God’ the message is all round. Charlotte Gambill does not hesitate to address elephants in the church’s room today. I loved the chapter called ‘Turn the Other Cheek’ a chapter on forgiveness and using our energies for the important things. Charlotte has this to say on the matter:

“Every time we allow our differences to shout louder than our commission as the body of Christ, our eyes are off the things we are called to turn around. . . When we lose sight of the true fight to which we are called, the enemy can cause us to take fire at the very people we need alongside us”

Every chapter had a unique and urgent message to offer. I'm trying hard not to put Mrs Gambill’s book in a box by describing it in one line as a book about the transformation God wants to bring in us and around us in our communities cause I think it’s so much more than that.

I think a good book is one that does two things to you. First, you want to read it again and second you are not the same person who opened the first page when closing the last page cause something’s changed.

I’m going read ‘Turnaround God’ again and as for the change, I’m waiting for the people I do life with to tell me that something’s different cause I know something happened in those pages. I think I can boldly say Turnaround God helped turn me around. It can do the same for you too.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Randy Pope - Insourcing [Book Review]

The world is changing, also is the way church is being done all over the world. INsourcing by Randy Pope is a book for pastors, church consultants or anyone interested in church growth and structure. It bares it all about what's working and what's not. In the pages of this book Pope uses Perimeter, the church where he pastors as an example of what it takes to transition through  different phases of growth as church.

Though written with church planters and pastors in mind, the models and ideas in here can be adopted by individuals. The big idea in INsourcing is fantastic and very needful especially in this generation, but as the book unfolded I found it being repeated over and over again. It would have been a much shorter book. Also the story chapters though enlightening into the rudimentary practicality of discipleship, came across as a bit distracting to the overall reading.

Is INsourcing a needed read? Sure, especially if you have anything to do with a church even if it's as little as just attending. And really I haven't found any book that shares the big idea in it even going through the archives of church planting literature authors such as Craig Groeschel, Rick Warren and Ed Stetzer. 

Randy Pope has offered us here a great resource and yes, It's irresistible. In a time when churches are at a behind-the-scenes brand wars with each other, INsourcing is the perfect warning, curriculum and reminder of what matters most and how to get done what matters most done.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Con Campbell - Outreach and The Artist [Book Review]

Con Campbell is a jazz artist who currently lives in Illinois, Chicago after relocating from Sydney Australia. And I must say, ‘Outreach and the Artist’ by Con is one of the most practical and relevant books I have read this year.

In this book, Con Campbell delves into the tension artists face with their faith, how they are often misunderstood and how churches sometimes sabotage themselves by sabotaging the artist in their midst. Most of the practical examples used are from Campbell’s experiences as a renowned Jazz artist who also happens to work in and with churches but honestly he relates them well to every art form. He also interviews other Christian professionals doing arts in the secular in the book and the conversations are way beyond interesting, they are enlightening. They answer questions on issues such as the tension they face, how they are misunderstood by other Christians and what is the greatest barrier holding back non-believers from coming to faith.

Reading this book helped clear a number of misconceptions I had about the arts and also how to work the appropriate theology into a work of art that is meant to be used in outreach. Christians who are already accomplished artists, creative directors, young Christians who are currently questioning if they should go secular or ‘Christian’ with their music and also Christians who have a heart to reach art secluded subcultures would benefit greatly from this book. ‘Outreach and the Artist’ is hands down practical, enlightening and relevant.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Shauna Niequist - Bread and Wine [Book Review]

One word, four letters, sometimes overrated mostly underrated. And for her third book, Author Shauna Niequist decides to dive totally into this topic, head on. No shame. Bread and Wine is about food and what it’s really meant to do. It’s about how food isn’t just to nourish our bodies but also to nourish our souls. And it’s classic Shauna’s style with her real life stories and lesson learnt or a dawning or an epiphany.

I am a hard-core Shauna fan and I have followed her blog since ‘Cold Tangerines’ to ‘BitterSweet’ and even the in between of ‘Bread and Wine’ but I choose not to write this review as a bimbo raving fan. Did bread and wine do it for me? I’m not quite sure. Though first of all, I must give an ‘atta girl’ to Shauna for offering her real- life everyday experience to people to learn from. That is bold and at the same time daring. It’s prone to leave the artist tender and wondering ‘what would the people make of this?’ I mean its real-life not the framed up Hollywood ‘reality’ shows we are used to. Real life. That said, Bread and Wine for me felt mostly like pieces of ingredients from her former books mixed together with ‘Recipes’ and baked into 'Bread and Wine'. And another issue I had with this book was how it ironically went against it central message of bringing people together to ‘the table’. It’s heavily culturally inclined. Dear Shauna, not only Americans read you; you've got a BIG platform. I have nothing against Shauna enjoying wine, beer, tonic and various alcoholic drinks, but I kept wondering for the teetotaler who wanted to join Shauna’s table. I write this with honest sincerity so that this great writer of mine can turn out better books in the future.

With Shauna, each chapter is a book on its own so it's hard to review a book of books. It's hard to tell you how one fell short and was full of gibberish while another was beautiful and full of wisdom. It's hard to tell you how one made me almost wipe a tear and how another almost made me throw the book across the room. Is Shauna worth reading? Yes! Absolutely yes! She has a fresh perspective to faith and how it soaks into everyday life. But for new readers and boys and men please start from Cold Tangerines before you pick up this one. It would add more color and perspective to the picture and help you appreciate Shauna's journey better.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Hezekiah Walker - Azusa the Next Generation [Music Review]

Artist: Hezekiah Walker
Album: Azusa The Next Generation
Label: RCA Inspiration 
Street Date: June 11, 2013
iPod Pick: No Greater Love
There is a BOLD claim I always love to make among my ‘musical’ friends, which is: LFC (Love Fellowship Choir) which happens to be Hezekiah Walker‘s choir is one of the best choirs ever. In fact most times I tend to rate them above other great choirs I love including the Soweto Gospel Choir, Kirk Franklin‘s Crew, St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir (The choir Anthony Way uses), Choir of King’s College at Cambridge, Swedish Radio Choir, and Westminster Abbey Choir (Yeah, too much British choirs, I know, but Britain [or say Europe]‘s got great choirs).
I think I’m always bold to make this bold claim cause the music of Hezekiah Walker has that organic feel of reminding us where we all came from, not just the black race but also the human race. It’s rich, deep like a never-ending well and of high quality like the diamond pendant your granny gave you and you would never want to throw away. It’s music to decipher and let serenade you. You just have to listen. And even as you listen to the music that emanate from Hezekiah’s choir, you would just hear not only the sound, you would hear the conviction, yes the convictions in each of the voices, in the voice of the thirty something single mom who’s had so much to cry about lifting her voice alongside the devotion of the twenty something young lad who heart cry is to live pure and bold in his generation. And isn’t that what we love about choirs? Voices of different texture, timbre and history rising to into one beautiful harmony telling the same story. And that’s beautiful if a choir succeeds in doing that well. Hezekiah Walker always does that well.
On ‘Azusa The Next Generation’, we have the anthemic, powered-up faith chant titled ‘Every Praise’ which is bound to pierce every dark cloud and the choir is at their tightest on this one. We also have Deitrick Haddon doing ‘Break Every Chain’ (which was formerly covered early in the year by Tasha Cobbs on her album ‘Grace’ but I must honestly say I prefer D Haddy’s version not just he can SANG but cause it has more room for response which also makes it ready for easy listen and local church choir renditions). Donnie McClurkin also appears on the soulful, worshipful ‘Breakthrough’, it’s a must listen. Before I close these appetizer givings, Brian Courtney Wilsonappears on the chill-back, windows-down ‘Grace’. Beautiful tune that would make you move on the inside.
So much on the new Hezekiah Walker’s ‘Azusa The Next Generation’ and I must say it doesn’t fail to deliver or kick off on the awesomeness of ‘Souled Out’ (Hezekiah’s last album.) Yes it’s been 5 years and we haven’t grown tired of that one. We won’t be getting tired of this one in a long while too. It’s that good.

[Review Originally Penned  For and Featured Courtesy of TheGospelGuru.com]

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Isaac Carree - Reset [Music Review]

Artist: Isaac Carree
Album: Reset
Label: Door 6 Entertainment 
Street Date: June 25, 2013
iPod Pick: Famous
From the bouncy ‘In the Middle’ to the soulful, laid back in tune ‘Uncommon Me’, Isaac Carree has brought in a kind of RnB in gospel we have come to love. Using his last project before this one as a springboard, it’s not like Carree brings something totally new to the table as various artist might come to mind when listening but the thing is how music is a part of this artist. He brings a presence to it that’s just uniquely his. And that is a very good thing. Isaac Carree carved a niche for himself and called us all in even with his debut ‘Uncommon Me’. That said, what about ‘Reset’.
On ‘Reset’ I hear many things. For me ‘Reset’ sounds more like a debut for Mr Carree as he totally leaves that niche he made for himself on his real debut. The thing about leaving niches is that just like a mother bird, you might lose some fans you already have in your nest.
Enter in ‘Clean This House’ the first single from the album which is already all over radio. This track is so R Kelly (Who coincidentally features latter on the album on a remix version of the same song)! Apart from concerns on originality on this track, the song writing is also skewed and lacks some precision. The verse starts off with a personal story ending up with a preachy bridge and ‘generalized’ refrain. My quick question for the artist or songwriter: is this a personal story or the metaphor story type with an ideal character the writer hopes anyone should fit into? These issues make the song a bit un-relatable.
Viewing as a whole, ‘Reset’ as an album is bold (maybe not lyrically) but musically. It is fresh and unlike a lot of things out there even in the mainstream. It has moments that shines with creativity [for example the ‘raggedy’ sounding little band choir chanting ‘Jesus’ on the moving ‘Famous’ (You need to listen. it is beautiful and has the ability to move your soul)]. Though with the Venn diagrams drawn already by popular RnB males such as Jason DeruloTygaChris BrownJor’dan ArmstrongTrey Songz, Miguel and little big boy NeYo, it’s hard to not be able to categorize anything thing that comes out in the RnB sector with pop flair into these categories but it’s good to find on Carree’s ‘Reset’ that thankfully some tracks fall out of these circles (Knock KnockFamous, Never, Right Now.)
We hear a hint of what it used to be on ‘Right Now’ and its one song that would connect with you even from the opening lyrics and sound. Ever wondered what it would sound like whenKirk FranklinLecrae and Kiki Sheard appear on a song? You need to listen to the loud speaker bomb ‘So Glad’ and they do it well without overshadowing or too much shine.
Ever had that feeling when a piece of artwork is saying a million things when it’s best at just passing one across? That’s what ‘Reset’ felt like on first listen but I believe it would grow on me. It should grow on you too. But first you’ve got to press the reset button on the memory of Isaac Carree you always had (even way back with Destiny Child‘s Michelle Williams and the Men of Standard) cause it’s okay to call this one a brand new artist. Seriously, it’s okay.
P.S.- Whatever lyrics he was crooning on the song ‘Never’ girl stay strong! You might be whining your waist before the song ends. Honestly it matters. I just had to tell you. Lol

[Review Originally Penned  For and Featured Courtesy of TheGospelGuru.com]

Monday, May 27, 2013

Kyle Idleman - Gods at War [Book Review]

Having not read the viral 'Not a Fan', I loved 'Gods at War' from the very beginning. Not necessarily for it's writing style as names like Rob Bell, Max Lucado, Mark Buchannan or Phillip Yancey might come up when it comes to writing that wants you to get to read a book for a second and a third time but more for it's introspective and insightful moments and the author's ability to handle a topic such as idolatry in such a relevant and realistic format.

'Gods at Wars' is a book about the various gods that contend for the space of the one true God in our hearts. 'I've heard that before' I hear you say but it would shock you some unseemly things we have gotten comfortable with in our culture which are actually and out-rightly gods! 'bronzed'  images we have carved for our selves. After all, Idols aren't so old school. They are still much around. All they did was just morph and Kyle Idleman tells us the why,how and what they morphed into.

For anything chapter 12 'God of Family' is a must read. Kyle switches the bouncy mood writing in which most of the book is written for a sage style say the Max Lucado style and the truth therein is weighty and impactful. It's a no miss at all.

Ann Voskamp (Author of 'One Thousand Gifts: a Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are') says this about this book

"Pick up this book only if you are weary of losing battles, if you are done with band-aid solutions, if you are ready for the real winning. You won't finish it and be the same person"

And I didn't. Get the book, you sure won't.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Judah Smith - Jesus is _______.[Book Review]

You should never judge a book by its cover. You should never. Whatever that really means with Judah Smith’s Justin Beiber-endorsed book (I am serious. You didn't watch the E! interview?) I’m not sure yet but here are some thoughts I had about this book immediately I got into the first chapter.

-          - Bubble gum gospel! It is obvious Judah Smith has served as one of those teen pastors that make you roll your eyes with their ‘uncalled for’ illustration of the bible with modern parallels that don’t really match.

-        -   It is obvious Judah Smith is obsessed with pop culture and his reference to it in his book unlike other new generation preachers is very distracting. Honestly I’m expecting ‘Jesus is your homeboy’.

But that was just a chapter into the book. In ‘Jesus is_____’ Judah Smith, Lead pastor of City Church Seattle helps us see who Jesus is fundamentally. And the interesting thing is most people (Christians alike) have glossed over these fundamental expressions of Jesus. I soon found myself highlighting the book all through into the second chapter ( in fact it wins for me 'most highlighted book of the year'). 

The interesting thing is Judah Smith leans more to a writer than just a preacher. You would feel the poetic and artistic elements seep in at times and then there are moments here and there and sometimes oh, it’s gone again. It’s obvious this book was likely written over a long period of time cause there are really deep rich moments in chapters that would leave you with a new definition of you, your reality and the world at large (and yes Jesus too). And there were chapters that would leave you probably rolling your eyes ‘what was that for exactly?’

Before I got this book, I heard so much buzz about it, read some ‘bad’ reviews and I actually found it hard to find a good review that told me exactly why the reading experience would be a good one. So is ‘Jesus is____’ worth getting and reading? Yes. I really think so and this is why: this is a book that explains as simple as possible the grace God offers the world through Jesus his son. It’s not preachy, non-linear and the writer does the job in a beautiful and artistic way. It’s the best I have come across on this subject and even if you are a veteran, you are bound to still have an epiphany.

I also searched for quotes from the book to help decide to make my choice but really found some ‘drabby’ ones (even from the author’s site) compared to some really great ones from the book that would sure get people more intrigued and here are a just a few

-        -   In the name of hating sin, the Pharisees ended up hating sinners

-       -    Mentally chastising the bad deeds of other people is more comfortable than dealing with my own

-      - The enemy is not bad people- it’s badness itself

-        -  Jesus sees our sin more clearly than anyone, yet he loves us more than anyone

-         -  Grace and Truth aren't enemies. They are on the same side.

-          - When some people hear about grace, the first thing they think is: so I can go out and do whatever I want, and God has to forgive me? They haven’t met grace- they have met a concept. They’ve met an idea. They've heard a nice sermon.

 Honestly this a tip of the tip of the iceberg, want more? Go get the book. I’m glad I didn't judge this one by its cover. I'm glad I went past the first chapter. All in all I'm glad (and better off) I chose to read Judah Smith's Jesus is_____. So glad I did. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Craig Groeschel - Altar Ego [Book Review]

 'Altar Ego' by Craig Groeschel, Senior Pastor at Lifechurch.tv Oklahoma wins book of the year so far for me. Last year one book that I read that rocked my world was Pete Wilson (Senior Pastor at Crosspointe Church Nashville)'s 'Empty Promises' while that delved into how we can continually remind ourselves of the real truth about the world and ourselves through the practice of various disciplines, Craig Groeschel's Altar Ego is a very practical book that deals with the issue of identity in Christ and how to live it out on a daily basis.

For anything in the world don't miss the chapters Bold Behaviour, Bold Prayers and Bold Words ( Chapters 9,10 and 11 respectively) even if you have to stand at the shelf in a bookstore and read them. One great thing about the book is how Craig shares vulnerably of the everyday ways he experiences God's power in his life and even the shortcomings he's looking to God to change. You will definitely relate. In Altar Ego, Craig beckons us to acknowledge our labels even if we don't deserve whatever we are called as individuals, not pretend like it does not exist and trust God to manifest in us the new name He's already given us.

Apart from a number of failed attempts at humor that might cause you to roll your eyes every once in a while and a hunger for more when this 'short' book ends, 'Altar Ego' might just be the most life changing book you would come across this year. Yes, it's that good.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Mark Driscoll - Who Do You Think You Are? [Book Review]

I do hope I don't get into a lot of trouble in writing this review but I think I'm up to it, so let's go.

First I would like to say I didn't pick up this book as a 'much needed read'. I actually picked it up with police eyes, more out of curiosity but upon finishing it, I would say I was blessed, enlightened and learnt a lot of new things. But I'm glad I didn't drop my police eyes cause if I did, then what really is the point of this review?

There some people who write books and you just can't afford not to read, even if all they write about is how they helped their little baby off the potty last night. I heard you say Rob Bell. Pastor Mark is also one too.

Mark Driscoll, Edgy, Bold, Confrontational, Dynamic, Relevant, is one of the few contemporary preachers I perceive as a theologian and whose works or words might be quoted many years from now. That said, let's get to the book.  In 'Who Do You Think You Are', Pastor Mark's major premise is 'how we can find our identity in Christ' or basically 'what our identity in Christ is'. A lot of books have been written on this subject, one that comes readily to mind is Dr. Neil T. Anderson's 'Victory Over Darkness'. So what makes this one unique?

One of the things I love overall about this book is how Mark Driscoll could related a lot of biblical truths (for example reconciliation) to a lot of social issues going on in this time and day. Also, Shockingly, unlike any book on identity in Christ I have read, there is a whole chapter on suffering titled 'I am afflicted'. Pastor Marks writes down a reality only few preachers might be willing to share today and I quote "those who have served Him most faithfully have been afflicted most painfully.

That said, remember that Einstein quote about making it as simple as ABC but not making it simpler? Great. This book is an exact metaphor of that saying. I feel in an attempt to make it all very simple, it came out really watered down in most parts. One example of that is the chapter on 'spiritual' gift titled 'I am gifted' in which Pastor Mark goes on to list a series of gifts listed in the bible and writes in the introductory parts of the chapter that musical ability, athletic prowess and artistic skill are 'spiritual' gifts as long as they propagate the gospel. My questions for Pastor Mark (hoping he takes out time out of his busy schedule to read this) are these:

1. Are you saying a spiritual gift is same as a talent?
2. Can you 'develop' a spiritual gift into a skill

and many more cause this particular chapter raises a lot of questions instead of answering them.

I won't assume but somehow I get what Pastor Mark ventures out to make clear in an age where it's been made to look like (in some circles) that if you don't 'prophesy'  or 'interpret tongues' you don't have a spiritual gift. In the later part of this chapter he calls the 'word of knowledge' the gift of knowledge terming it the gift that makes one want to know and research. Interesting. (if this is not clear, more reason you should buy the book and gain a new perspective on things).

I appreciate Pastor Marks effort to simplify dense biblical concepts and the research done in the coming about of this book is evident and rich but the text appears to wordy, dense and at times a bit distracting as the author drifts to a different concept at times. Reading this for me brought back the nostalgic feeling of reading Wayne Grudem's 'Systematic Theology'. And maybe this is just one of those textbook like book you consult throughout life's journey (have one of those? I have a couple of good books I read every now and then. LOL! )

'Who do you think you are' is packed, rich and one of those books that might be around for a long time. But my advice as you dive in dive in with your bible as life jacket. It's an in depth contextual study on the book of Ephesians in most part and there are lots of side notes and references. So get ready. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Erin Healy - House of Mercy [Book Review]

I am a big fan of Erin Healy since her start off writing the amazing and engaging ‘Kiss’ with New York times bestseller Ted Dekker followed by the intriguing ‘Burn’. Erin Healy has a uniqueness unseen in lots of works around today which she displays in her writing but it’s sad to say that somehow I didn’t feel that 'ting' in Erin Healy’s latest titled ‘House of Mercy’.

 The story revolves around a family that owns a shelter ranch and a lawsuit filed against the daughter in the family concerning a horse killed by an 'invisible' wolf. The story seems to go round in circles for a long time before it picks up and drags again.

For new readers interested in the works of Erin, I would advise them to stop first at the junction of ‘The Baker’s Wife’, ‘Kiss’ and ‘Burn’ before heading for this. Though I didn’t enjoy reading this work, I can’t wait for Erin Healy’s next novel cause I know she’s a great writer. 

Book Synopsis

When Beth’s world falls apart, can she ever be whole again?

Beth has a gift of healing—which is why she wants to become a vet and help her family run their fifth-generation cattle ranch. Her father’s dream of helping men in trouble and giving them a second chance is her dream too. But it only takes one foolish decision for Beth to destroy it all.
Beth scrambles to redeem her mistake, pleading with God for help, even as a mystery complicates her life. But the repercussions grow more unbearable—a lawsuit, a death, a divided family, and the looming loss of everything she cares about. Beth’s only hope is to find the grandfather she never knew and beg for his help. Confused, grieving, but determined to make amends, she embarks on a horseback journey across the mountains, guided by a wild, unpredictable wolf who may or may not be real.

Set in the stunningly rugged terrain of Southern Colorado, House of Mercy follows Beth through the valley of the shadow of death into the unfathomable miracles of God’s goodness and mercy.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Plumb - Need You Now [Music Review]

Artist: Plumb
Album: Need You Now
Album Length: 13 tracks: 51 minutes, 23 seconds
Street Date: February 26, 2013
Record Label: Curb Records
Genre: Rock/Pop
iPod Pick: ‘Beautiful’ or ‘Drifting’ (Honestly it’s a strong tie)

Plumb’s career story is inspiring at best. On making a decision to leave the music industry years back (which she hadn’t publicly announced yet) and playing her last concert, Plumb was approached by a young girl who slipped a note across to her. The note summary was a ‘Thank You letter’ of how Plumb’s music as at then had helped the girl through a very hard time. It was then Plumb made up her mind to continue making beautiful music. If you aren’t familiar with the music of Plumb then you are not familiar with the popular flick ‘Bruce Almighty’. Maybe you would recognize her real name Tiffany Arbuckle Lee somewhere in the soundtrack credits. Fans have waited five years for ‘Need You Now’ and I can tell you from here: It was worth the wait. And this is why.

‘Invisible’ sounds like something Lady Gaga would gladly pay Plumb for as a songwriter and place on her next album. It’s got that eerie feel that one of those Kylie Minogue calisthenics styled music video might just fit well if Plumb decides to make a video for this one.  Drifting’ which features Jars of Clay member Dan Haseltine has the ability to do two things in you, awaken angst for the status quo and at the same time hope for tomorrow as you might get stuck on this one for a while before you continue the record. Before you continue, you might pick up your headphones and take a walk. There’s a tendency you would smile at every stranger you meet on the way while listening to this one. 

'Beautiful' builds up with grace and tempo consisting of all what we loved about the 80's music and what's most beautiful about it is the story it tells. The lyrics and bouncy beats at its bridge would make you just smile big. Love me some ukulele on 'One Drop' which pop radio would pick up soon. 'I Want You Here' starts in an undecided melody leaving us wondering 'what exactly is happening in this song!' Until you here Plumb screams the first line of the chorus 'I wanna scream. . .' And then you realize we were in for an impatient but slow ambient roller coaster all along. 'Say Your Name' reminds us why we've always loved Plumb’s  music  as she asks 'when does a scar become a tattoo?'. Though loud, 'Say Your Name' leans more on the poppy side, which still Gaga but preferably Pink or Ke$ha wouldn't might paying for on their own respective albums.

'Unlovable' is a letter, I think to the church. It's beautiful. And that underlying tune knocks it off more beautifully. And there's a chance you might print out the lyrics for this one and place them somewhere near your mirror. Example: 'so we say we love Jesus. Didn't we kill him?' 'Need You Now (How Many Times)' musically follows the path of something we’ve heard but might not be exactly able to place from Plumb's 'Chaotic Resolve'  album but still sounds solid and beautiful for this project.

I personally love 'Chocolate and Ice Cream' and would give Plumb a pat on the back for it cause its musically different in sound from anything she's ever done and would have just been extra perfect if one of them rappers say Lecrae or Tedashii dropped some bars on this one. 'I Don't Deserve You' musically might not shatter new grounds but is lyrically loaded. And somewhere towards the end, Plumb spontaneously breaks into a SANG IT!!! voice, and yeah it's okay cause she can SANG. 'Cage' walks the thin line of a 'no no' and 'yeah! That’s my song'. Personally I think it's would have been best kept for a future record as it seems like a vacation from the whole mood and feel of the album but it still beautifully reminds us of the best of 80's rock.

An old fan might just scream 'lullabies? Not again!' on 'At Arms Length' which is reminiscent of songs from Plumb's Blink project. It's a love song this time and not about cooing babies to sleep. Even here we hear the line 'Faster Than a Bullet' which is what this album was meant to be called formerly. DJs get ready for the party ready 'I Don't Deserve You (With Paul van Dyk) ' which would get a regular listener wondering if it's the same song on 'I Don't Deserve You' same words but so much difference.

Plumb has always had the ability to convince us music is never made in a studio but drops directly from heaven and she does that again on her latest 'Need You Now'. Tiffany Arbuckle Lee is a song carver specialized in delivering bespoke songs to her fans that meets them in an individual place yet drawing them to seek a community where hope is readily available. 'Need You Now' is a 'must-not-miss' if you've been a fan or if you love music, just plain good music. And no wonder this artist been cited as an inspiration and model by many established artistes say Amy Lee of the rock band Evanescence.


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