Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Happy World Book Night!

Our Lady of the Forest, Roger's Version, Blue Like Jazz, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, The Long Shining Waters
Here is what I will most likely be reading!  What are you guys reading??

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wasted Wednesday: Tenth Avenue North Concert Reflection

Tenth Avenue North is most known for the fact that they are labeled as a Christian band and they don't mind it.  They believe that the band isn't about them but about God and introducing people to Him.  I first heard of the band while I was at camp....well, church camp actually if you must know.  I went to this church camp, Camp Montrose, 4 times and they were some of the best weeks of my life!  They were weeks full of laughter, friends, great good, chapel time with music and sermons, paint ball, soccer, baseball, ultimate ping-pong, scavenger hunts and much much more!  During my last time at the camp, a few guys grabbed their guitars and went to the rec room to sing a few songs.  A group of us gathered around them and almost everyone knew the tunes.  I unfortunately did not.  However, I enjoyed one of the songs so much that I quickly wrote down the lyrics and hoped Google could help me out when I returned home.  The song was called By Your Side and I bet you can guess who sang it!  Tenth Avenue North, a new and upcoming band that was being praised for their raw take on Christianity.  It took me a while before I actually figured out the meaning of the song though.  The song is sung from the point of view of Jesus.  It puts a really creative spin on Christian music in my opinion.  I've been listening to the band ever since and they have introduced me to a lot of concepts and even more great artists, one of the artists being Rend Collective Experiment...a.k.a Christian Mumford & Sons.  When I found out they were touring together I knew I had to see them!  Luckily, they came to a town super close to where I live.

I sort of knew what to expect at the concert.  I have a live DVD from a Tenth Avenue North concert and I've watched plenty of vlogs from lead singer Mike.  I knew the concert would be like an intense, loud church service and I wasn't quite sure how I felt about it.  But I knew the opportunity to see two of my favorite bands perform music about Jesus in a creative way was one I couldn't pass up.  
So now you are probably thinking, this blog is titled The Reader.  Why are you writing about a Christian music concert?  In an interview with William H. Macy about the show Shameless (a great show by the way), he said that the show was unlike anything he had ever seen on TV.  He then stated it was very novel.  I think it is important that in life we look for novel-ness in everything we do.  I think this idea is especially important when speaking about spirituality.  Author Ron Hansen says,
"Essentially fiction shows you how to live a moral life or how to avoid an immoral life, and religion is trying to do that same thing, but fiction provides you models rather than lessons."  This concert was, as William H. Macy would put it, very novel.  Each song flowed with the other and lead singer Mike did a great job of relating his stories and the bands songs with the audiences lives.  It was in the middle of the concert when the band sang a series of songs that made me tear up a bit.  By the end, all of the pieces had come together and I wished it could all be kept in a book for me to read daily because I didn't want to forget that night.  
Now, I didn't go to the concert alone.  My boyfriend Eric graciously came with me!  This was an entirely new experience for him though.  We were both raised Catholic and though I was exposed to many different types of Protestant churches, mostly Nazarene, in my teens, he was not.  When I told him the concert was at a church he immediately though of a Catholic church with wooden pews and a sacred altar where a band would be performing.  After the first act, Moriah Peters (another great performer and singer by the way) and Rend Collective Experiment performed, there was a little break where the band set up their instruments and main singer Mike came up to talk about some stuff.  
Not long after, the band took to the stage and it was great to see them performing!  I knew most of the songs and I had given Eric a few of each band's songs for him to listen to a few weeks before so he knew some of the tunes.  I was enjoying the concert very much but I think the best thing about the entire night was when the band got the audience involved for the first time.  They sang out some minor lyrics for the audience to sing and while I kept my mouth shut, I could hear Eric next to me shouting out the lyrics with the crowd.  Before I knew it, I decided to sing along with.  It was the best feeling seeing Eric get involved with the music and really enjoying himself.  It meant a lot to me and that was by far the best moment of the night.
Toward the end of the concert, I began feeling the same pang in my chest that I used to feel when leaving Camp Montrose.  It is the feeling when you know this amazing spiritual experience is going to end and soon things won't be as easy.  There won't be a band to guide your spiritual life with God, right?  Now you have to do it all on your own!  Scary!  But then I thought about a video put out by Blimey Cow a few months back about Spiritual Highs and how ridiculous they are.  I felt embarrassed with myself because I knew that things would go back to the way they were.  I wanted this feeling to last forever.  But it is silly of me to think this way.  Why?  Well 1. It isn't about me and my feelings, it is about what Jesus did for me when He died on the cross.  And 2. If I didn't want a spiritual high, why not just say no and start identifying myself in Christ?  It isn't easy but no one said finding identity in God was easy and no one is perfect.  As Tenth Avenue North sings, "don't stop the madness."  I hope this idea is reflected in the blogs I previously posted and the ones I will continue to post.
I wanted to share this experience on my blog because this is something that is very important to me.  I'm not looking to change or convert but I do know that it is important to spread the word of God and what Jesus has done for me and Tenth Avenue North is truly a blessing.  Go check out this song by them -->  Worn  <--  and go check out Blimey Cow's video -->  Messy Monday's: My Spiritual High is Higher than Yours. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Reading: Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Where the Red Fern Grows is a book I was assigned to read in sixth grade.  I was 12 years old and still becoming familiar with literature and books that were considered high art vs. low art.  I was also already familiar with this title because in fourth grade my teacher told us she was reading the book.  Reading was always a big deal in elementary school and I can't say I regret that one bit!  After I read this book in sixth grade, it was immediately one of my favorite books along with one of the Little House books at the time.  I remember absolutely loving it.  Now it is 10 years later!  I can't believe it has been that long!  I decided to re-read the book because I couldn't remember much from it other than the beginning chapters and the ending and that it is a story about a boy with hunting dogs.  Needless to say, it was most definitely time for a re-read.
Where the Red Fern Grows is the story of a boy named Billy who saves money to buy two genuine hunting hounds.  Right away it is clear these hounds are something special.  Their names are Big Dan and Little Ann, brother and sister.  The two work with each other in harmony and soon become the finest hunting hounds in the area.   The story is about the love between a boy and his dogs.
Reading this a second time was very strange.  For one thing, it wasn't a school assignment anymore.  Another thing was that I was reading a ton of other books on top of this one so I didn't read it religiously like I must have the first time around.  And, this is pretty obvious, I am older so I was reading the book with completely different lenses.  What mattered to me and what I related to as a 12 year old obviously isn't the same now that I am 22.  Then again, I don't forget my childhood entirely so that helped me while reading this book because it let me pick out aspects of this book that I know I would have loved as a preteen.  At the age of 12 I loved witnessing a boy who loved the outdoors and loved helping out to earn money because I liked those things as a kid.  The main character, Billy, had a grandfather who owned a shop that sold many things - one of them being candy - and it reminded me a lot of the Little House books which, as I stated above, I loved as a young girl.  Reading about the forest where Billy hunted reminded me a lot of the Poconos where my grandparents lived at the time.  I related a lot to Billy's prayers and the ending of the book was so profound to me and I loved how the title was woven into the story and it was unlike any book I had ever read before.  Needless to say, I can understand why I loved the book as a 12 year old.
If I had not read it in sixth grade and had this been my very first time reading the book, my feelings would not be the same.  I would not go to call this a favorite book.  I found it a bit droning and it drew out scenes forever until I didn't want to read.  I thought it was annoying that Billy's sisters had no names as well.  I also didn't like how it represented God and religion.  When Billy prayed, it almost made it seem that when you pray and you are sincere, you will get whatever you want.  Now, as a 12 year old I can understand that theory.  But now as an adult I sort of wish their was at least one prayer of Billy's that wasn't answered just to show that it is always that easy to pray to God and get your hearts desire.
Despite those things, the story is fulled with a lot of heart and is very nostalgic because as you read you remember that, like Billy, there was something you worked really hard for when you were little and it shaped your childhood and your life forever.  It really is a universal story.  Although it wasn't as good of a read the second time around, I will still call it a favorite.  It's been my favorite book for ten years!  It feels wrong to ditch it now!  Anyway, favorite or not, I will give it 4 out of 5 stars!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Reading: East of Eden by John Steinbeck

East of Eden was an unexpected read for me.  I had every intention of reading another book but after seeing a certain quote from this book, I immediately decided it would be in my best interests to read it now.  The quote I am speaking of is this, "And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good."  I felt I needed to read this book to understand the entire focus of what that sentence meant to the story in which it came from and hoped that after reading this novel it would guide me a bit with my own writing.
The title East of Eden is an obvious hint at the garden of Eden which is featured in the most popular book in the world, the Bible.  In the Bible, Eden is the garden which God creates in the beginning where Adam and Eve reside.  It is a paradise where there exists no sin or evil but just happiness.  When Adam and Eve are tempted by the sinful serpent to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, their hearts are filled with sin as are the rest of the hearts of those to come for the rest of eternity.  They are then banished from the garden of Eden which is often referred to as east of Eden, hence the title of this book.  Steinbeck's novel is a modern retelling of the biblical beginnings tale in which sin already exists instead of their being no sin at all.  The title references humans separation from God, that when sin entered the world man and woman were forced to leave the garden and live east of Eden.
This book was absolutely nothing like I expected it to be.  It was extremely dark at times and extremely poetic at other times.  I honestly feel like I didn't do the book justice by just reading it one time because it is so in depth with literary content that it needs to be read three or four times in my opinion.  That being said, would I read this book again?  I'm not really sure I would.  On a personal level, my reading experience wasn't quite what I wanted it to be.  I essentially forced myself to get through this novel.  It was not only a difficult read but a slow read and therefore I tried to read it with every breath of air I took.  I wanted to finish it so I could move on and focus on my books for school, other books I wanted to read, and on books I wanted to write myself.  The novel was very rich with content and characters and good old fashioned story telling but I felt like my reading experience of the book wasn't very good while I also feel this book needs to be read a few times to really be appreciated.  I want to say more in this review but I'm pretty sure my brain was fried by the time I finished reading the book and already I have a hard time remembering detail for detail like I usually do.  Overall, I will give this book 3 out of 5 stars.  I know it is a classic and I want to appreciate it but I guess the whole experience of reading it was just not a good one for me.  Maybe I will read it again in a few years.