Top Six of Oh Six

Yes, just what the world needs: another top 5 or 10 list. The proliferation of blogs, forums, and other internet outlets lets our opinions be trumpeted out to… no one in particular. But I have read some good books this year, and I wanted to share about them one more time. So without further ado my top SIX books of the year:

1. Scoop by Rene Gutteridge. If you want to laugh out loud at an original premise and great characters, then this is the book. I looked forward with delight at getting to sit down and read more of this very enjoyable piece. See 11/15 post and following.

2. Firebird by Kathy Tyers. Okay, this is a trilogy, but I’m counting it as one. (My blog, my rules) This was the best science fiction book I’ve read in a long time, probably since the Thrawn trilogy of Star Wars books. Good company, as Kathy has written some SW novels. The worlds she creates are vibrant and exciting, and it is very easy to get lost in the events of the book. Book 3 suffers a little in pacing, but overall the trilogy is very worth the investment of time and money! See 8/21 post and following.

3. Hood by Stephen Lawhead. Lawhead returns with a great read and retelling of the Robin Hood story. He creates a believable scenario for making the hero Welsh, and builds great characters and harrowing situations. Here’s hoping the sequels hit the same high mark. See post here.

4. Waking Lazarus by T.L. Hines. A debut novel by the brainchild of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. I enjoyed it at the time, but I was going through such a tumultous time it was hard to truly appreciate it. As I reflected, it was an engrossing story with an amazing concept. Be sure to watch for The Dead Whispers On from Mr. Hines in 2007. See 6/26 post and following.

5. Violet Dawn by Brandilyn Collins. I had been enjoying BC’s blog since March of 2005, but Violet Dawn was the first book of hers I read. To my regret. The book grabbed hold and didn’t let go with the suspense of the story rushing through 14 hours of life in Kanner Lake, Idaho. With such a compressed timeline, she kept the excitment up while making the town and its denizens come to life. Of course, I have also enjoyed participating as Pastor Hank in the book’s blog, Scenes and Beans! See 9/27 post and following.

6. Germ by Rober Liparulo. This one may be cheating, as it is scheduled for a blog tour in January. I don’t want to give it away, you’ll have to check back then for more. Suffice it to say, this book kept me in suspense more than any other book this year. When I got it I sat down to check out a few pages. 45 minutes and 50+ pages later, my wife came looking for me since I was so distracted.

There you have it. My top 6 of ’06. Here’s to more great books in 2007!

Top Six of Oh Six

Yes, just what the world needs: another top 5 or 10 list. The proliferation of blogs, forums, and other internet outlets lets our opinions be trumpeted out to… no one in particular. But I have read some good books this year, and I wanted to share about them one more time. So without further ado my top SIX books of the year:

1. Scoop by Rene Gutteridge. If you want to laugh out loud at an original premise and great characters, then this is the book. I looked forward with delight at getting to sit down and read more of this very enjoyable piece. See 11/15 post and following.

2. Firebird by Kathy Tyers. Okay, this is a trilogy, but I’m counting it as one. (My blog, my rules) This was the best science fiction book I’ve read in a long time, probably since the Thrawn trilogy of Star Wars books. Good company, as Kathy has written some SW novels. The worlds she creates are vibrant and exciting, and it is very easy to get lost in the events of the book. Book 3 suffers a little in pacing, but overall the trilogy is very worth the investment of time and money! See 8/21 post and following.

3. Hood by Stephen Lawhead. Lawhead returns with a great read and retelling of the Robin Hood story. He creates a believable scenario for making the hero Welsh, and builds great characters and harrowing situations. Here’s hoping the sequels hit the same high mark. See post here.

4. Waking Lazarus by T.L. Hines. A debut novel by the brainchild of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. I enjoyed it at the time, but I was going through such a tumultous time it was hard to truly appreciate it. As I reflected, it was an engrossing story with an amazing concept. Be sure to watch for The Dead Whispers On from Mr. Hines in 2007. See 6/26 post and following.

5. Violet Dawn by Brandilyn Collins. I had been enjoying BC’s blog since March of 2005, but Violet Dawn was the first book of hers I read. To my regret. The book grabbed hold and didn’t let go with the suspense of the story rushing through 14 hours of life in Kanner Lake, Idaho. With such a compressed timeline, she kept the excitment up while making the town and its denizens come to life. Of course, I have also enjoyed participating as Pastor Hank in the book’s blog, Scenes and Beans! See 9/27 post and following.

6. Germ by Rober Liparulo. This one may be cheating, as it is scheduled for a blog tour in January. I don’t want to give it away, you’ll have to check back then for more. Suffice it to say, this book kept me in suspense more than any other book this year. When I got it I sat down to check out a few pages. 45 minutes and 50+ pages later, my wife came looking for me since I was so distracted.

There you have it. My top 6 of ’06. Here’s to more great books in 2007!

New Switchfoot!

Oh baby…


Oh! Gravity has landed.

The boys from San Diego released their latest album today. I wasn’t going to get it right away, but thanks to my buddy TL Hines, Montana writer extrordinare, I had an extra $10 in my pocket (well, at least in my Paypal account).

I’ve listened to it a few times so far today (as I put together yet another Lego set for my boys. Legos must have been invented to give parents patience…). It is musically pleasing from the get go. The lyrics are thoughtful as always, a little different from their last couple of albums. It seems the theme is challenging the status quo of the cultural mentality. “American Dream” dashes the idea that life is all about money, and a similar vein runs through most of the songs.

So if you enjoy rockin’ beats with lyrics to challenge you intellectually and melodies to worm inside your subconscious only to come out while waiting in line somewhere, check out Switchfoot. The cover art is bleah, but the music is well worth it.

New Switchfoot!

Oh baby…


Oh! Gravity has landed.

The boys from San Diego released their latest album today. I wasn’t going to get it right away, but thanks to my buddy TL Hines, Montana writer extrordinare, I had an extra $10 in my pocket (well, at least in my Paypal account).

I’ve listened to it a few times so far today (as I put together yet another Lego set for my boys. Legos must have been invented to give parents patience…). It is musically pleasing from the get go. The lyrics are thoughtful as always, a little different from their last couple of albums. It seems the theme is challenging the status quo of the cultural mentality. “American Dream” dashes the idea that life is all about money, and a similar vein runs through most of the songs.

So if you enjoy rockin’ beats with lyrics to challenge you intellectually and melodies to worm inside your subconscious only to come out while waiting in line somewhere, check out Switchfoot. The cover art is bleah, but the music is well worth it.

Adoration

Newsboys – “Adoration”

I’m here with the others
Who saw the heavens testify
Now I hang back in the shadows
I want to come close
I want to know
She sees me shivering here
She smiles and with a nod
I walk through the mud and straw
To the newborn Son of God

Come, let us adore Him
He has come down to this barren land
Where we live
And all I have to give Him
Is adoration

He raises a wrinkled hand
Through the dust and the flies
Wrapped in rags like we are
And with barely open eyes
He takes my finger
And He won’t let go
And He won’t let go
It’s nothing like I knew before
And it’s all I need to know

Come, let us adore Him
He has come down to the world we live in
And all I have to give Him
Is adoration

God is with us here
Our Immanuel
God is with us here
Our Immanuel

O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
Jesus, our Immanuel
Is with us here and He won’t let go

Adoration

Newsboys – “Adoration”

I’m here with the others
Who saw the heavens testify
Now I hang back in the shadows
I want to come close
I want to know
She sees me shivering here
She smiles and with a nod
I walk through the mud and straw
To the newborn Son of God

Come, let us adore Him
He has come down to this barren land
Where we live
And all I have to give Him
Is adoration

He raises a wrinkled hand
Through the dust and the flies
Wrapped in rags like we are
And with barely open eyes
He takes my finger
And He won’t let go
And He won’t let go
It’s nothing like I knew before
And it’s all I need to know

Come, let us adore Him
He has come down to the world we live in
And all I have to give Him
Is adoration

God is with us here
Our Immanuel
God is with us here
Our Immanuel

O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
Jesus, our Immanuel
Is with us here and He won’t let go

Christmas – The Ultimate Second Chance

This is the article I wrote for our local paper, that was published in the Religion section on Dec. 15.

Many people feel that the Old Testament and New Testament of the Bible describe two different Gods. I have heard it said, even from otherwise well-educated, thoughtful people, that the God of the Old Testament is a God of justice and wrath. Conversely, the God of the New Testament is a kind and loving God.

In reality, this is a great misconception. The God of the Bible remains consistent throughout His word – it is people reading that don’t understand the way His character remains true from Genesis to Revelation.

In the Old Testament, the focus is often on the wrath of God: Sodom and Gomorrah, the 10 plagues of Egypt, the exile of the Jews to Babylon are just some of the examples of the Lord showing His anger to people. And if this is how people see Him, then they will get that impression. I would come to that conclusion myself.

However, in reading the Old Testament carefully, a different picture emerges. One begins to see a God who is a passionate lover, chasing after His people, giving them many opportunities to return to Him. The Lord reveals Himself to be the God of Second Chances.

Instead of thinking of fire and brimstone, consider this: when Adam and Eve sin, they are punished for their actions. Their sin cannot stay in the presence of a holy God. But later in the Bible it says that the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23). Did God smite them down while in their fig leaf outfits? No, He revealed His plan for redemption right after their first sin.

After the serpent had deceived Adam and Eve, God curses the serpent and says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring (singular tense in Hebrew) and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15). This offspring was the promised Messiah. Even though God would’ve been justified in stopping the whole human experiment right then, He instead showed the way by which he would redeem people from their sin.

People may say that the Flood was a severe judgment. But God again would have been justified in wiping the slate clean and starting over; that’s how bad humanity had become in a short time. But he saved Noah and his family, so that we again could have a second chance.

The children of Israel rebelled against God over and over. He told Moses He would wipe them out and make him into a mighty nation. But God showed mercy when Moses interceded.

All through Israel’s history, they turn from the Lord who loves them time and time again. He sends prophets to the people and the leaders, encouraging them to turn back before it is too late. The prophets are always viewed as harbingers of woe. Except, this too is a misconception. Yes, they use quite colorful language to try and catch the ears of their audience, but over and over again the heart of the message is “return to Me”. God’s undying love cries out for His children to seek Him, the true source of all that is good, instead of fooling themselves with the things of the world that seem to bring fulfillment, but only end in disaster.

God doesn’t even stop there. The Old Testament is focused on the Jews, but repeatedly He calls out to the other nations, that they might come to Him as well. “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6).

Hopefully you are starting to see a different picture of the Old Testament here. There is no lack of example on this principle: the God of Genesis through Malachi is a God of love. I could go on for a while on His love for His people, and how He promised He would make a way for them.

The fulfillment of this promise, of giving people a second chance to come back to God, took the form of a little babe in a manger 2000 years ago. The ultimate expression of this redemption took on human form. We could not make a way for ourselves, no matter how hard we tried. The Jews tried to keep the law. They sacrificed how many animals at their temple, to what end? The work of man and the blood of animals could not make up our debt.

There was only one way for our debt to be paid. There was only One, whose blood would be pure enough to wipe away all our stains. There was only One, whose perfect sacrifice would make a way for us to return to our Father in heaven, who desired in His great love, mercy, and longsuffering to have His children in His kingdom. It was unavoidable.

Love had to become flesh. Born of a virgin. He did not miraculously appear in that manger. He was birthed. He had to be cleaned off. His parents were so poor, that a stable for animals was their shelter. A feeding trough had clean hay placed inside so the babe could have a place to lie. The Old Testament, with its story of a loving God pursuing His creation finds its culmination in the greatest miracle of all: Jesus Christ is born. The New Testament, in full agreement with the Old, begins.

And the greatest of second chances is given to the peoples of the world.

Christmas – The Ultimate Second Chance

This is the article I wrote for our local paper, that was published in the Religion section on Dec. 15.

Many people feel that the Old Testament and New Testament of the Bible describe two different Gods. I have heard it said, even from otherwise well-educated, thoughtful people, that the God of the Old Testament is a God of justice and wrath. Conversely, the God of the New Testament is a kind and loving God.

In reality, this is a great misconception. The God of the Bible remains consistent throughout His word – it is people reading that don’t understand the way His character remains true from Genesis to Revelation.

In the Old Testament, the focus is often on the wrath of God: Sodom and Gomorrah, the 10 plagues of Egypt, the exile of the Jews to Babylon are just some of the examples of the Lord showing His anger to people. And if this is how people see Him, then they will get that impression. I would come to that conclusion myself.

However, in reading the Old Testament carefully, a different picture emerges. One begins to see a God who is a passionate lover, chasing after His people, giving them many opportunities to return to Him. The Lord reveals Himself to be the God of Second Chances.

Instead of thinking of fire and brimstone, consider this: when Adam and Eve sin, they are punished for their actions. Their sin cannot stay in the presence of a holy God. But later in the Bible it says that the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23). Did God smite them down while in their fig leaf outfits? No, He revealed His plan for redemption right after their first sin.

After the serpent had deceived Adam and Eve, God curses the serpent and says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring (singular tense in Hebrew) and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15). This offspring was the promised Messiah. Even though God would’ve been justified in stopping the whole human experiment right then, He instead showed the way by which he would redeem people from their sin.

People may say that the Flood was a severe judgment. But God again would have been justified in wiping the slate clean and starting over; that’s how bad humanity had become in a short time. But he saved Noah and his family, so that we again could have a second chance.

The children of Israel rebelled against God over and over. He told Moses He would wipe them out and make him into a mighty nation. But God showed mercy when Moses interceded.

All through Israel’s history, they turn from the Lord who loves them time and time again. He sends prophets to the people and the leaders, encouraging them to turn back before it is too late. The prophets are always viewed as harbingers of woe. Except, this too is a misconception. Yes, they use quite colorful language to try and catch the ears of their audience, but over and over again the heart of the message is “return to Me”. God’s undying love cries out for His children to seek Him, the true source of all that is good, instead of fooling themselves with the things of the world that seem to bring fulfillment, but only end in disaster.

God doesn’t even stop there. The Old Testament is focused on the Jews, but repeatedly He calls out to the other nations, that they might come to Him as well. “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6).

Hopefully you are starting to see a different picture of the Old Testament here. There is no lack of example on this principle: the God of Genesis through Malachi is a God of love. I could go on for a while on His love for His people, and how He promised He would make a way for them.

The fulfillment of this promise, of giving people a second chance to come back to God, took the form of a little babe in a manger 2000 years ago. The ultimate expression of this redemption took on human form. We could not make a way for ourselves, no matter how hard we tried. The Jews tried to keep the law. They sacrificed how many animals at their temple, to what end? The work of man and the blood of animals could not make up our debt.

There was only one way for our debt to be paid. There was only One, whose blood would be pure enough to wipe away all our stains. There was only One, whose perfect sacrifice would make a way for us to return to our Father in heaven, who desired in His great love, mercy, and longsuffering to have His children in His kingdom. It was unavoidable.

Love had to become flesh. Born of a virgin. He did not miraculously appear in that manger. He was birthed. He had to be cleaned off. His parents were so poor, that a stable for animals was their shelter. A feeding trough had clean hay placed inside so the babe could have a place to lie. The Old Testament, with its story of a loving God pursuing His creation finds its culmination in the greatest miracle of all: Jesus Christ is born. The New Testament, in full agreement with the Old, begins.

And the greatest of second chances is given to the peoples of the world.

Only “One Part Brave”


Since I’ve been pretty active with the Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy blog tour lately, I paid more attention to the movie Eragon. When my good friend Chris and I had the opportunity to get out for a movie, our choices were narrowed to Eragon and Casino Royale. Due to the CSFF Tour, I opted for Eragon, despite lesser reviews when compared with the latest Bond flick.

I don’t usually hang my hat on other reviews, but in this case they probably were right.

I’ll admit up front that I haven’t gotten around to reading the book. If there are any Inheritance trilogy fanboys out there, I’m not dogging the novel, just the movie.

The plot centers around the defeat of the dragon riders long ago by the evil king, who turned on his fellow riders and instruments of justice in order to take power from his own. There is one dragon egg left that is known about, and the movie starts with the search for this stone.

Before the bad guys can take it from the beautiful warrior princess, she manages to magically get it right in front of the very one needed to unleash its potential. Eragon is a 17 year old boy raised by his uncle, content in his farm life. Only when the dragon hatches and he learns the fate he is slated for does he rise up to take a hold of his destiny.

That the movie has promise, is the best compliment I can give it. There’s a good story in there wanting to get out. It is just buried by very stilted dialogue (“I suffer without my stone”) repeated over and over again (“one part brave against three parts foolish”).

The dragon is rendered beautifully, and the scenes of Eragon as the dragon rider flying in battle are exciting. However, at other times the visuals are like a direct-to-DVD knock off of Lord of the Rings. I don’t know who the director is, but Peter Jackson he ain’t.

John Malkovich is terribly wasted as the king. I enjoyed the magical Shade played by Robert Carlyle. I love Jeremy Irons, but he was hampered by the poor dialogue most of all. The young actor who plays Eragon, Edward Speleers, does the best job in the movie and seems to be a likeable star. Don’t get me started about Djimon Hounsou, who has such great screen presence but is made to look ridiculous here. This movie must have brought in every overweight white guy in Hollywood to play the villanous Urgalls. There were more rolls than a NFL lineman reunion!

I heard that the young author of Eragon wasn’t involved with the screenplay, which if true is a very good thing for his reputation. As another reviewer put it, the story comes off as a mish-mash of Star Wars and LotR. Yeah, blame the Hero’s Journey (which may be the case), but still the plot line was done before and done better.

Overall, it was a fine diversion, but I would’ve rather caught it at the cheap second run theatre.

Only “One Part Brave”


Since I’ve been pretty active with the Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy blog tour lately, I paid more attention to the movie Eragon. When my good friend Chris and I had the opportunity to get out for a movie, our choices were narrowed to Eragon and Casino Royale. Due to the CSFF Tour, I opted for Eragon, despite lesser reviews when compared with the latest Bond flick.

I don’t usually hang my hat on other reviews, but in this case they probably were right.

I’ll admit up front that I haven’t gotten around to reading the book. If there are any Inheritance trilogy fanboys out there, I’m not dogging the novel, just the movie.

The plot centers around the defeat of the dragon riders long ago by the evil king, who turned on his fellow riders and instruments of justice in order to take power from his own. There is one dragon egg left that is known about, and the movie starts with the search for this stone.

Before the bad guys can take it from the beautiful warrior princess, she manages to magically get it right in front of the very one needed to unleash its potential. Eragon is a 17 year old boy raised by his uncle, content in his farm life. Only when the dragon hatches and he learns the fate he is slated for does he rise up to take a hold of his destiny.

That the movie has promise, is the best compliment I can give it. There’s a good story in there wanting to get out. It is just buried by very stilted dialogue (“I suffer without my stone”) repeated over and over again (“one part brave against three parts foolish”).

The dragon is rendered beautifully, and the scenes of Eragon as the dragon rider flying in battle are exciting. However, at other times the visuals are like a direct-to-DVD knock off of Lord of the Rings. I don’t know who the director is, but Peter Jackson he ain’t.

John Malkovich is terribly wasted as the king. I enjoyed the magical Shade played by Robert Carlyle. I love Jeremy Irons, but he was hampered by the poor dialogue most of all. The young actor who plays Eragon, Edward Speleers, does the best job in the movie and seems to be a likeable star. Don’t get me started about Djimon Hounsou, who has such great screen presence but is made to look ridiculous here. This movie must have brought in every overweight white guy in Hollywood to play the villanous Urgalls. There were more rolls than a NFL lineman reunion!

I heard that the young author of Eragon wasn’t involved with the screenplay, which if true is a very good thing for his reputation. As another reviewer put it, the story comes off as a mish-mash of Star Wars and LotR. Yeah, blame the Hero’s Journey (which may be the case), but still the plot line was done before and done better.

Overall, it was a fine diversion, but I would’ve rather caught it at the cheap second run theatre.