Friday, October 29, 2010

Guest Blog Post

I've done my first ever guest blog post!

My boss, William J Cole, AKA Bill, has turned into my friend over the last two years.  He's a fellow man of faith, has a passion for social media, and is a solid businessman.  When he asked me if I'd be willing to do a short video blog posting for him, I immediately agreed.

Head over to his blog and watch, "Standing Out: Lessons From A Light."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My Ten Favourite Christian Songs: 3/10

There is no way I could compile a list of my favourite Christian songs without including something by Rick Cua (note that a song will play when you visit that link).  He's a niche artist without broad appeal in Christendom, but he definitely found his niche with me and my quirky ilk.  He's a true rocker and really pounds the bass line out, and the weaker of his albums were the ones where he tried to soften his style for who knows what reason.

I was and remain a huge fan.  I'm even a member of the original Koo Crew and have the t-shirt to prove it.  Sadly, it has shrunk so I can no longer wear it. Ahem.

I remember reading that when he was first developing an interest in music, he started learning guitar.  But his dad told him that if he wanted to ensure he always had a music job, he would do well to master the bass guitar, as every musician and his dog wants to play guitar or drums, and they'll all need a bass player if they want to form a band.  He took his dad's advice and landed a gig with the Outlaws in 1980, a southern rock band.  He left them three years later and launched his own self-named group.  His album "Midnight Sun" was the second one I ever purchased, and he is the only musician for whom I have collected every album.  I've had his music on his LPs, cassettes, and the last two releases on CD.

Also he was born in the same year as my dad.  That's bizarre.

The content of his music relies heavily on the theme of "Help me God!" - yet another niche he has filled, for this world is replete with people who need help and encouragement.  I could easily pick some faves from across the decades, such as I Can I Will, Help Me Out, Won't Fade Away, or Be God, but after much deliberation (and a last minute change of mind) I'm going to go with 1992's Be A Man.  Lyric sample:

When his disciples got up and ran
He walked alone on the road to be a man
His body broken, blood on the sand
Still he got up, got to be a man
The drove a spike right through his hand
He could have walked but he had to be a man
You wanna grow up?  Well here's the plan:
Let the Lord teach you how to be a man.

You gotta hear this one.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Ten Favourite Christian Songs: 2/10

Next up in my list of my top ten favourite Christian songs was a piece written by Steve Schellenberg.  My wife and his wife are friends through his wife's sister, and he graciously helped me pick out a guitar when I first learned to play.  Within this top ten list, he is the only artist whom I actually know.

His music is folksy, airy, and imbued with poetic, whimsical lyrics.  It's difficult to pick just one of his songs, but the one I selected is Cold, Cold Wind.  He performed this song on a show the CBC put on a few years back.  It's all about welcoming strangers into your home when they are in need, and that gift of hospitality has been poured on my wife and I in spades.  We are constantly entertaining guests, so it's little wonder that this song resonates with me so much.

For the tune go to this link and play track 13.  A sampling of the lyrics:

I heard somebody knocking at my front door
What ya gonna do when the cold wind blows?
Well I think we got some room for maybe just one more
So won't you come in, yeah you better come in
Get a little shelter from the cold, cold wind
There's a lot of people walking this world alone
What you gonna do when the cold wind blows?
Well they got no family, maybe got no homes
So won't you come in, yeah you better come in
Get a little shelter from the cold, cold wind.

This tune is a prime example of the Gospel in action.  Jesus told us that on the last day he would judge his disciples by whether or not they had fed him when he was hungry, clothed him when he was naked, visited him when he was sick - and revealed that whatever we do to the least of our brothers and sisters on this world, we do unto him.  That's a tall order, and the song reminds me of this holy obligation to recognize the divine dignity inherent in all my fellow travelers on life's road.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Ten Favourite Christian Songs: 1/10

Being raised in an evangelical home, I was surrounded by the Christian music my parents had collected.  As I grew older I started looking at the years these albums were released, and I noticed that around the time of my birth, my parents had stopped purchasing music.  I asked them about it one time, and they didn't have a clear answer, saying something vague about how it just wasn't a priority any more.

We are a musical family, so I didn't understand how that could be, until I started having kids myself and saw the same thing happen with my music collection.

I was about sixteen when I purchased my first cassette tape with the money from my paper route: it was a collection of Petra's greatest hits entitled, "Petra Means Rock."  Tentatively I showed it to my parents, fearful of what their reaction would be.  Rock music was something they simply did not have in their collection - even Christian rock - and while I was branching out in my own direction, I was uncertain how they would respond.  They didn't react at all, which pleased me: I had been worried that they would insist I take it back.

And so my journey began.  My wife constantly pokes fun at me, since most of my music is from the Holy Decade of Christian Rock - the 1980s.  But I still enjoy it all, although I have updated my collection with a few newer albums too.

A couple of days ago I compiled a playlist of ten songs that resonate with me, and burned it to a CD so I could listen to it in our non-iTunes compatible minivan. Over the next few series of posts I will share these songs here.  Note that the order these are posted in is not reflective of where the songs rank.

So without further ado, here is number 1: Nothing Can Take This Love, by Whiteheart, 1982.  Steve Green, who later went on to a more subdued musical solo style, is the lead singer on this penultimate album of one of the earliest Christian Rock groups.

This song has a sharp, pounding bass line, tightly chorded piano, and a chorus which builds to a tingle-inducing crescendo.  A sample of the lyrics:

Only you could have changed me, sent the clouds from my eyes
Now I see things in a different way, since I gave my life to you
Now I know the love I'll never lose, never lose
'Cause you gave all you had for me
You gave all you had for me
You gave all you had for me
Nothing can take this love, nothing can take this love from me
Nothing can take this love - no!

The tune itself is catchy and I love the fact that the verses don't rhyme and yet still flow smoothly.  The lyrics themselves resonate with me, as in all of these songs, because of their truth and relevance to the life I've lived and the love I've known.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Transformations #36: How New Is New?

During my time in the adoration chapel last night, the Lord drew me to the Luke 5:36-39.

He told them this parable: "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.  And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.  No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.  And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.' "

He challenged me to answer this question: Has my heart grown old?  Am I stuck on the old wine?

I run into this concept at work all the time, as I try to explain the concepts of Twitter & blogging to some of my older colleagues who are nearing retirement.  Many of them are quite open to this type of change in the world of business, but a handful are the stereotypical crotchety old men who can't see why anybody has to do anything different.  It's ironic: when the fax machine first came out, these men were at the forefront of the new technology.  Same thing when early computer-based word processing software came out - they jumped right on the technology bandwagon and left their previous generation in the dust in terms of squeezing more hours out of their workday.  But an amazing thing happened: they got used to the new things, and before long they weren't new anymore.  Suddenly the fax machine is archaic, and being able to increase your font size in MS Word doesn't leave your coworkers gawking in astonishment.

But I see this same trait in myself.  When I first learned my MS Excel skills, it was on Excel 97.  I have Excel 2007 at home, and it's chock full of new features that weren't around when I cut my teeth on it.  Like that new Office Clipboard that lets you copy multiple chunks of data into memory simultaneously and paste them individually at your leisure - it annoys me and I've disabled the feature, because I am used to the copy-and-paste-one-at-a-time method.  So I find myself stuck in an old rut when there is a new and more efficient method.  I just don't have the desire to learn to use it.  Just like a crotchety old man who doesn't give two cents about Twitter.

Similarly, my decision to surrender my life to Christ is not, chronologically speaking, a new thing any more.  Naturally, at the moment of my rebirth I was made new, as I Cor. 6:17 says, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"  This is what the Lord challenged me with last night.  The theme of this entire blog - Be Transformed - is derived from Romans 12:2: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."  Renewing is an active, current verb and implies continuity.

I'm also reminded of Lamentations 3:22-23, which says of the Lord, "His mercies never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."  If the Lord gives me new mercies every day, then I should be renewed every day.  I am learning that my rebirth in Christ was not a single event, but is a lifelong journey.  If I stop moving, stop growing, stop receiving his mercies, stop being transformed, then I am stagnant and dying.  G.K. Chesterton said, "A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it."

Lord, show me your new mercies tomorrow morning; help me to swim upstream.

And starting tomorrow, I'm going to figure out that multiple clipboard thing in MS Office.