Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Jay-Z Meets the Reformation

When I was little, my mom used to wish trick or treaters a Happy Reformation Day. No joke. My parents were pretty big fans of Luther (with the exception of the whole anti-Semitism thing) and I really liked the movie with Joseph Fiennes, so when I had to pick a topic for my Early Modern Europe paper Luther seemed like an easy and interesting enough choice. Weeks and a rather unpleasant all-nighter later, I had heard enough of Luther to last me quite awhile. As much as I love the fact that we are saved through faith alone, no one messes with my Circadian rhythms. However, my choice had been made. There I stood, and I could do no other.

My friend "Brianna" however (who, interestingly enough is an agnostic and does not share my passion for collecting geeky Christian youtube videos) referred me to this lovely clip:

Enjoy, and may you never have to write a paper on Luther. I love the guy, but I'd just as soon have stuck to watching the movie.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

At Least Psalty Wasn't Creepy...

I recently had the privilege/misfortune (you decide which) of coming across this lovely youtube video.

The man who just sang a duet with himself, half normally and half creepy Helium, is Lil' Marky, a Christian children's singer of days gone by. We've all made fun of Psalty and the Music Machine, but they have nothing on this guy. I mean, his voice is creepy enough (think a soprano Donald Duck), but some of the songs are such as I would never inflict on any child of mine. Should you happen to be curious, you can listen to his songs here, but if you're not willing to subject yourself to that, allow me to recap some of the highlights. I should point out, as well, that the average length of a Lil Markie song appears to be about 13 minutes.

Diary of an Unborn Child
In this gem of a song, lil Markie takes on the persona of an unborn baby boy, eagerly anticipating his life on earth and narrating his life in the womb (Day one: today I was created. Mommy and Daddy don't know yet...). Then, rather abruptly, the hitherto upbeat number experiences a change in tone. Day 23: Today my mommy killed me. At which point lil Markie begins to sing, as mournfully as he can with his warbly helium voice. "Why, did you kill meeeeeee, Mommyyyyyy. I would have loved youuuuuuu. I wanted to be your little boyyyyyyyy. I was a gift from Jesus to youuuuuuuu." As much as I am pro-life, this is just creepy, and hardly something I'd want my 5 yeard-old singing around the house.

Story of an Alcoholic Father/Something's Happened to Daddy
The title in this one is rather self-explanatory. It's the story of a little boy who gets saved at a revival meeting, after realizing what a wretched little boy he is, and how much he needs Jesus in his life because he only showers once a month. His father, who is drunk when he hears the news of this conversion, gets angry and beats the mother (who also got saved, did I mention that?) with a baseball bat so severely that she almost dies and has to go to the hospital. At this point the father is grieved and shocked, swears off alcohol, and begins to go to church with them. In the words of Lil Markie: "We thought he had found Jesus, but he was just being a phoney baloney." Anyway, it all hits the fan when the pastor mentions tithing in a sermon, and the father vows never to go to church again. Lil Markie begs, pleads, and cries to no avail. So Lil Markie takes it to God and asks Him to save his father and, guess what, He answers. The next day, Lil Markie wakes up in tremendous pain. So he has to stay home from Christian school and his mother calls a Christian doctor to examine him. The doctor informs him that he will probably die within the next hour, and he has just enough time to witness to his father once more. So Lil Markie pleads with him, asking him not to go to hell, and breathes his last. Then he and Jesus watch with great joy as his father weeps over his dead body and asks God to save him.

Lil Markie Goes to Calvary
This song includes the awkwardest testimony, fake or otherwise. "By the time I was 5 I was doing hard drugs. Marijuana, cocaine, hashish, you wouldn't believe what went up my nostrils." And that's only after kids in his village turn him into a candy thief so he can be their friend. He ends up running away to England and eating a ton of Fish n Chips, and then magically he's in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus' crucifixion. What follows is a horrifically graphic description of the Passion (narrated in a helium voice, of course) that culminates in Lil Markie kneeling in a great big puddle of blood at Jesus' feet and asking Him into his life.

I wish to goodness I was making this up, but all I've found suggests that not only did this really happen, it was genuinely intended as an evangelistic tool. I, for one, intend to stick to Veggietales.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

If the Eyes of Faith Don't Work for You, Try 3-D Glasses

I've been part of the Christian subculture my whole life, and spent the past year working in a store that caters to that subculture, so I don't really expect to be too surprised by much of our merchandise anymore. Today, however, I came across an item that officially ranks as the strangest one I have ever seen, bar none. The cinnamon-scented pocket vial of anointing oil that previously held the title doesn't even come close. Here it is:

The title and cover art look fairly normal. A bit of a Lee Strobel ripoff, maybe, but nothing out of the common way. But check out the the fine print at the bottom: "View the world's first scientific Three-Dimensional Holographic Image of the Face of Christ. 3-Dimensional Glasses Included." That's right folks. And not just a random 3-D Jesus hologram, this apparently the face of the crucified Christ, as He appeared in antiquity. According to the synopsis "This documentary investigates the historical record, draws upon medical knowledge, searches for evidence in the lives of the Apostles, explores ancient Jewish burial customs, and—with new scientific technologies—examines the 2000 year old burial cloth of Christ. For the first time through physics and space-age imaging, scientists are able to view the crucified body of Christ in a three-dimensional, holographic image." This doesn't even need sarcastic commentary, folks. It mocks itself. Unfortunately, the DVD failed to deliver on its promise to strengthen my faith and uplift my heart.

With all this being said, I am a firm believer in the Resurrection, and there are scholars and apologeticists out there who can articulate the case for it far more eloquently than I ever could. I highly recommend the work of Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell. It isn't at all my intention to denigrate the Resurrection. It's what gives me hope, and it's the foundation of my faith. But I find it quite unnecessary to grasp at straws for evidence when so much solid stuff is available. And I look forward to the day when I will be able to look at the real, non-holographic Jesus' face. I won't even need 3-D glasses to see Him.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Fireworks and Frozen Yogurt

Today was Canada Day which, while not as big a deal to most Canadians as the Fourth of July is to Americans, is nevertheless a national holiday that involves a parade (in my home village, this happens only twice a year, the other time being Christmas). I celebrated by watching Corner Gas, eating frozen yogurt, and taking an accidental 5-hour nap. If I finish planning tomorrow's VBS lesson in time, I may watch the fireworks from my balcony.

This year's Canada Day festivities have triggered two trains of thought for me. The first is that I am very thankful to live in a democratic country, where I have the freedom to believe what I want and share my beliefs with others. I even have the freedom to vote now that I turned 18, although I'm thankful I don't have to exercise that freedom this summer (minority governments = way too many elections). But that being said, as I've been following the news lately, I've been increasingly grieved to see how some people in our country (including Christians, maybe especially Christians) elevate this day's status to that of a quasi-religious holiday. We feel that because Canada was founded on "Christian" principles (such as, for instance, bloody feuding between anglophone Protestants and francophone Catholics, or banishing multitudes of Native American children to residential schools where, along with learning about the love of Jesus, they had to deal with physical, emotional, and sexual abuse). Undoubtedly, there were some strong (although imperfect, like all of us) Christians in our country's history, but I never know whether to be sad or amused when I see other Canadian Christians treating the smallest slight against our country, whether real or imagined, as a slight against God. We had a principal in an elementary school about two hours from where I live make the controversial decision to play the national anthem only during school assemblies, rather than every morning after some parents objected to their children singing it for religious reasons. You would think he had gone on television and burned our flag or something. People around the country responded in outrage, with the general consensus being that this man was now single-handedly responsible for the shed blood of every Canadian soldier who died in battle. The political party with which he was affiliated was immediately branded as being anti-anthem and anti-Canada. Finally, he had to quit his jobs because of death threats. Death threats, for no other reason than choosing to play the national anthem with less frequency. It would be ludicrous if it wasn't so sad.

I have nothing against people who love their country. I love mine, too. I take pride in being a Canuck, and even in the quirks that are so often associated with the title. I may not live in an igloo (although I wouldn't mind trying the ice hotel in Quebec City someday) but I really do end many of my sentences with eh. I use the metric system and I think Corner Gas is comedy at its best. I do, however, have a problem with people who equate love of their country with hatred of its perceived enemies. Canada is not the new Israel. It is not God's new chosen nation. We do not have the right to His unequivocal protection against any enemies that may arise. To borrow from Elisabeth Elliot, "being a Canadian does not make me a better Christian. Rather, being a Christian makes me a better Canadian."

So happy Canada Day to all two of my Canadian readers and happy early Independence Day to any Americans reading this. I hope you have a great day, and that you are thankful for the many blessings that come with living in a democratic country with a better than average human rights record. Just remember these wise words from Pablo Casals: "Love for one's country is all well and good, but why should love stop at the border?"

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Left Behind Books (and why I wish I'd never gotten my little sister hooked)

This may sound slightly (okay, very), sad, but my family's Christmas Eve celebrations last year consisted of a Left Behind Movie Marathon in Quebec. It was, to be fair, an unusual Christmas Eve in several respects. We were driving to visit my grandmother and Christmas Eve happened to be a stopover day in Quebec City, with nothing much to do since the friend who let us stay at her place had to work that day. Nor was the Left Behind Movie Marathon even the most unusual part of our day. The one time all day that we decided to leave the apartment and go for a walk, my sisters and I stopped off at a random convenience store where we were offered free beer (I was 17 at the time, and my sisters were 16 and 11. Apparently, according to the guy behind the counter, the legal drinking age could only be enforced if they sold us the beer. Quebec is weird that way.) However, while the convenience store episode has faded to nothing more than a funny story, the Left Behind Movie Marathon is becoming one of my greatest regrets.

Here's why: My little sister decided that Left Behind was the greatest thing she had ever seen (sadly, this is probably in large part a consequence of our sheltered Christian upbringing), and thus began an obsession that is still going strong 6 months later. Consequently, eschatology unfortunately became a prime topic of dinner table conversation for my family. The conversation could get pretty heated, since my sister was (at least at first) completely sold on the dispensationalist position presented in Left Behind, while my dad was hardcore post-trib. Then, to add to the mix, I find debates over eschatology incredibly pointless, but am sympathetic to (although not completely sold on) the preterist position.

Moreover, once a week at least, my sister and I will end up having a conversation that goes something like this: "Christina, do you think that Jesus will rapture us before the tribulation? Because I don't think I could handle living through the tribulation." "Rachelle, I've already told you, I don't know. Jesus hasn't told me anything new since last week. But I promise you that whatever happens, He'll give you the strength to deal with it." "Well, I still hope it's pre-trib." It's not a bad conversation to have with your little sister, as far as those go, but it gets a little tiresome after the tenth time.

Lastly, my little sister (egged on by my other sister) has taken to identifying signs of the coming apocalypse whenever she listens to the news. Her latest candidate for the Beast of Revelation? Barack Obama. Why? Because (and I quote) "Frank McKenna called him a messiah on CTV and my friend Brittany says he makes people bow down to him." Okay then.

It wouldn't be quite as sad if my little sister was the only one who was obsessed with Left Behind and the famed End Times, but it seems to be fairly common among North American Christians in general. Maybe this is because we tend to prefer sensationalism to what is solid. I don't know. At anu rate, I find it sad that we can allow a comparatively minor issue to become so divisive. I recently read a book by Abdu Murray called "Apocalypse Later: Why the Gospel of Peace Must Trump the Politics of Prophecy in the Middle East." I definitely recommend it. It dealt with how Christians are so focused on identifying fulfilled prophecies in the Middle East comflict that we forget the most important thing: Jews and Arabs both need Jesus. Maybe we could all use a return to the gospel, instead instead of spending our money buying rapture-ready air fresheners and spending our time watching Rexella gush over Jack van Impe's prediction that Jesus is coming back in 2012. Maybe, if we actually focused on spreading the gospel, more people would be ready if He did come back then.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Have you ever noticed that, whatever your hobby or designation, there is a devotional for you. At least one. There are about 20 separate books with the title Devotions for Teens, and I can't even count how many Devotions for Mothers there are. But what about less broad designations? If your hobby is taking care of your puppy, is there a devotional book for you? About 10-15 years ago, devotional book publishers realized these untapped niche markets and started publishing books that reached out specifically to God-fearing nurses, or hunters, or softball players. The result can occasionally be amusing. Check out some of these gems.

Links: Devotions for Golfers. I'm not terribly shocked that I found a book called Devotions for Golfers. What was more surprising was that I found a good dozen devotional books catering specifically to golfers. Maybe it's more popular in the States than in Canada, but I can't imagine that the market would be big enough to warrant that many.

Beautiful Threads: Devotions for Quilters by Mary Tatem. Technically I think it's called words of encouragement or encouraging thoughts for quilters. Again, a bit of a niche market, but I guess there are probably more quilters among the Christian community than there are in society in general. There are definitely more cross-stitchers. Come to think of it, I'm sensing a new untapped market...

More Devotions for Dieters. I don't find it that odd that there would be a book of devotions for dieters. Why not involve God in your effort to be healthy? But a sequel seems a bit like overkill. Not to mention that the word diet denotes a temporary change in eating habits, and it strikes me as more Christian to work towards a permanent lifestyle change that glorifies God in the way you take care of your body.

But anyway, what devotionals are missing out there? Devotions for mongoose hunters? Great-grandmothers? Bloggers?

What do you think?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Most Important Person on Earth

So the Holy Spirit can be pretty confusing sometimes. For the Christian layperson, only one resource is more valuable than a book that concisely explains the Holy Spirit and how He works.

What resource is this, you might ask? Try a book that concisely explains the Holy Spirit and gives you a chance to win a free Bahamas vacation (and, depending on his schedule, lunch with Dr. Myles Munroe himself).

That's right. Today a customer bought Myles Munroe's The Most Important Person on Earth and, affixed prominently to the front was a sticker that announced that Myles Munroe was partnering with the Bahamas ministry of tourism to offer you the chance to win a free Bahamas vacation. Some days I have the hardest time keeping a straight face while ringing in customers (admittedly I had a harder time when an elderly couple couldn't remember the PIN for their chip reader VISA and started thinking out loud about what it might be. "Try 7263. That's the number for our debit card...").

Here's the best part, though. The warehouse sent us the book (with the promotion sticker) about a month ago. However, when I looked it up online, I found that the promotion had expired in July of 2007. So, unless time travel is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, you won't be able to take advantage of this offer. Oh well. It was an...interesting thought anyway.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Christian Posters (or How to Sanctify Your Dorm Room 101)

So that's it. I'm officially done my first year of university. I finished my history exam 1 hour and 13 minutes ago. It wasn't a very fun exam, chiefly because I drank a Pepsi beforehand so I could stay awake and it made the last 2 and a half hours of the exam rather unpleasant since we couldn't leave the room till we were done. But now I'm done and somehow it's all worth it. My dad and sister are coming to pick me up tonight and we'll be going out to dinner, but in the meantime I'm celebrating by eating chocolate pudding (or trying to without a spoon since I packed my dishes two days ago) and blogging about Christian posters.

There are three different kinds of posters at the bookstore where I work. There are the Rose Publishing poster, which have heavy duty theological stuff like maps of the Holy Land and Timelines of Christian History. There are some smaller, cutesy ones with cartoon pictures of woodland animals and cutesy slogans like "Jesus makes me smile." Our best sellers, however, are put out by World Christian Posters. They're the more mainstream Christian pop culture posters and they range from genuinely deep (for a poster anyway) to amusingly awkward. Either way, they're great, so I thought I'd share some of the highlights with you.

Prayer: It Hurts the Devil's Feelings

Because, of course, that's the best reason to pray.

I <3 Boys (Who Love Jesus)

I wasn't a fan of this poster at first. It still strikes me as rather shallow, but I've moved from being semi-scandalized to amused by it. Don't you love how the "Who Love Jesus" part is just kinda tagged on as an afterthought? The sad thing is that it's actually pretty reflective of how a lot of Christian girls approach relationships.


Because, of course, iWouldn't be a good Christian if iDidn't get onto the iBandwagon.

If People Give you Lemons, Give them Jesus (and then Make Some Lemonade)

This is a prime example of people trying to Christianize a cliche that was already semi-Christian in the first place. Technically speaking, it's good advice, but it comes off as awkward. And that's just compounded by the pink and yellow color scheme.

"God is dead." - Nietzche, 1883 "Nietzche is dead." - God, 1900

I laughed at this one when I first saw it. But on further reflection I see one of two options. 1. Nietzche turned to God in the moments before his death (unlikely, but I'm not ruling it out) and is now in heaven or 2. He died in his sins, in which case his fate is more sad than funny. But the poster is still clever.

Animal Pranks on the Ark

Someday I may have to do a post with just Bible comics.

"Where You Live Should No Longer Determine Whether You Live" - Bono

I love this poster. I put it up in my dorm room (as well as the next 2). I'd comment on it, but it kinda speaks for itself.

"Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity." - 1 Timothy 4:12

So I know this is like the theme verse of 75% of Christians under 30. But I still love it. Plus the graphics are pretty not bad.

Jesus' Faithbook Profile

And there it is folks, the piece the resistance. My personal favorite poster. I love it because it's got about 60 jokes on one poster. My personal favorite is the "View More Paintings of Jesus" link. Plus he's friends with All the Children of the World.

And this last one leads me to ponder (and ask you guys) if Jesus did have a Facebook, what do you think it would look like?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The End of the Story

My friend "Susa" from Navigators recently started a "group journal." She passes it from person to person and everyone gets to write an entry with their thoughts at the time. She handed me the journal over the Easter weekend, so my thoughts kind of turned in that direction. I thought I'd share what I wrote with you guys.

The End of the Story

"The first thing I read in just about any novel is the last few pages." From the reaction I get when I tell people this, you'd think I just said "I club baby seals for fun" or something. Apparently peeking ahead violates some cardinal rule of fiction reading. I'm not sure exactly when it started, but somewhere along the line I read a book with a crappy ending and decided that I would no longer invest time and emotional energy in a book without first making sure it was worth it.

Over the past few weeks, as Easter season has come and gone, I've been thinking more of the first Easter, and it struck me this year that what I do with novels I also do with the Easter story. The only way I could sit through Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ was knowing that the agonies of that awful Friday weren't the end, that their purpose was fulfilled in Resurrection Sunday.

The people who followed Jesus during that first Easter, though, didn't really know what would happen. Jesus did know, He knew that both the horrible crucifixion and the glorious Resurrection were His destiny, but even He struggled with the road He'd have to take. The more I've been thinking about what those days must have been like for those first Christ followers, men and women like Peter, John, and Mary, the more I've seen in them facets of my own experience and that of other Christians.

Friday: For those on the ground on that first Good Friday, it was anything but good. That Friday was the day they saw their dreams for themselves and their country die a bloody death before their eyes. I think of Mary especially, who must have felt every whip lash on her son's back and every nail shattering His hand as though it were happening to her. They had such prayers and hopes for Jesus. They were sure He was going to restore justice and peace to Israel, drive out the Roman oppressors. Instead, the Roman oppressors were slowly killing Him before their eyes. God had never felt so far away. Even Jesus cried out from the cross "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" On a smaller scale we can identify with that experience, the experience of pinning all our hopes on something, of being sure it would take place only to watch our hopes deflate. Maybe we even thought it was God's will, and now suddenly He seems so far away and we feel all alone.

Saturday: Jesus is dead and buried and now doubt, fear, and confusion have settled in. Everyone feels numb, some are angry with God, some doubt that He is good or maybe even that He is out there. No one quite knows what to do now; no one thought thins would end this way. Some, like Peter, are blaming themselves for failing Jesus. Maybe some even blame Jesus for not using His power to defend Himself. One thing is for sure: the hope they had felt just days before as they followed Jesus and heard Him preach is as dead and one as He is. Doubt is something many a Christian has wrestled with, even those of us who know the end of the story.

Sunday: Jesus conquers death itself and His followers realize that their hopes for Him weren't too big after all, they were too small. Instead of just saving the Jews from the Romans, Jesus saves the whole world from sin and death. And here's the most astounding thing: the victory of Easter Sunday is made possible only through the piercing agony of Friday and the deadening doubt of Saturday. Easter Sunday stands forever as a testament to God's ability to take the worst crap the world throws at us and turn it into something far more beautiful than we could ever have imagined. I see so many churches today going around telling people how life with Jesus is one big joyride, one wholesale experience of victory over everything that binds us. But trying to experience the victory of Easter Sunday without the agony and doubt of Friday and Saturday is a cheap and tawdry substitute, like settling for a cheap strand of plastic costume pearls instead of the real deal. Jesus' victory over sin and death cost Him everything He had to give, but the victory is all the sweeter for the cost.

For the record I still read the last few pages of a book before I tackle it. I don't think I'll ever break the habit. What I love most about Easter Sunday is that it not only shows me the end of the story for Jesus and His followers, it shows me the end of my story. Because of what Jesus went through for me, I have hope that the crap I encounter in my life will be temporary, that God can make something beautiful even out of that, and that one day I'll get to share Jesus' happy ending with Him.

P.S. I promise there are some funny posts in the works and I will bring them to you in the near future.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I'm Back

Well, after my first try at giving up something for Lent, I am back on blogger. I hope you all had fantastic Easter.

It's rather unfortunate that my return to blogger coincides with finals, so I'll have to give it a few more days before I write a proper post, but in the meantime I thought I'd leave you with an episode of one of my favorite TV shows. The show is called Corner Gas, the episode is called Blog River. I'm not sure whether or not you have to be Canadian to get it, but I love it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I think I'm computer-cursed. If I own an electronic, something is bound to go wrong with it within a few months. I've actually been lucky with my laptop, it took 6 whole months to mess up on me. About 2 weeks ago, something happened to MSN messenger and I've not been able to use it since. Then, today, the same thing happened to Internet Explorer (I'm borrowing a friend's laptop right now). I'm hoping to have it fixed by the end of the week, but my reaction to my loss of Internet shocked me and made me realize just how dependent on it I'd become. So, what with today being Shrove Tuesday and all, I've decided to give up pleasure surfing the Internet (which, for me, is defined as Blogger, Facebook, and MSN. I will allow myself to email and do homework, but that's it) for Lent. Although my computer will almost certainly be fixed before the 40 days are up, I've realized that I need to cut down. So, accordingly, I'd like to apologize for not posting in the next 40 days and, since I won't be back until the Easter season, I wish you all a blessed holy day.

He is risen indeed.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Redeeming Love

Since the beginning of February, a group of girls from my residence has been meeting in my room (chosen because I'm the messiest of us and this is incentive to keep my room clean) to study the book of Hosea. It's a really powerful book about God's love for His people, even when they turn away from him and look to other gods (whether Baal for the Israelites, or money and comfort for us). The first three chapters tell the personal story of Hosea, whom God tells to marry a prostitute named Gomer, even though she will cheat on him and he will not know whether all his children are really his or not. Even though she leaves him and sells herself into prostitution, he goes after her and redeems her (the word literally means to buy back). As odd as it may seem at first glance, it's a beautiful allegory of God's love for us.

Francine Rivers' book Redeeming Love tells the story of what Hosea might have looked like in an 1850s setting. I first borrowed it from the public library, and it was fantastic on so many levels. It not only gave me a new picture of just how much God loves us, it gave me a new love and compassion for women who are trapped in the sex industry. So when my Bible study group decided to study Hosea, I finally picked up my own copy. We're taking turns reading it right now, and the other girls are loving it as much as I did when I first read it. I highly recommend it both as a story, and as a study tool for gaining further insight into Hosea. To quote Larry the Cucumber: "I laughed, I cried, it moved me Bob." I think the main this book did was show me just how much I had been forgiven, which in turn increased both my love for God and my love for people I would otherwise have judged and dismissed as "worse sinners than me."

This song is by an awesome singer/songwriter called Michael Card, and it's called Song of Gomer. I've already forwarded it on to my Bible Study crew, but I'm sharing it with you now. I think it's beautiful.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy V-Day...A Week Late (Plus a Sneak Peek at THE Bible for all your Gangsta Friends)

So I've decided that February 13th and 14th brings a sudden influx of guys into a Christian bookstore. Usually our customers are mostly female, except for pastors who come in to buy the ESV Study Bible (word to the wise, if you're trying to attract an Arminian girlfriend, avoid using the ESV- it practically screams Neo-Calvinist) and the complete works of Charles Spurgeon. On the eve of V-day, however, guys suddenly realize that they still haven't bought their wife/girlfriend a card and that copy of Fireproof she wanted. So what do they do? They flock to the Dayspring section of their local Christian bookstore in droves, pick out a card, and buy it using the reward points their wife has spent months accumulating. I kid you not. We actually had a couple of wives come in later that day asking what had happened to their points. Good times. But anyway a happy belated Valentine's Day to you all.

For those who follow SCL, you may have seen yesterday's post where Jon compared Bible translations to G.I. Joes. Now I have an interesting translation to add to the mix, but unfortunately my knowledge of G.I. Joes is sadly limited so I can't offer a corresponding character. If you have any ideas, bring 'em on. I would like to introduce you to...drumroll, please...the Word on the Street. Of all the Bibles in my personal collection, this is the only one I read for personal amusement. If the Message is considered a paraphrase of the Bible, this is a paraphrase of the Message. I like to call it the gangsta Bible, interspersed with British slang. It's pretty great. The only downfall is that Rob Lacey never got around to doing the whole Bible. He paraphrases some passages, but often summarizes pages and pages in one paragraph. To quote the back of the book, "Bible stories are retold as mini-blockbusters, psalms as song lyrics, epistles as emails, Revelation as virtual reality." I could describe it to you in more detail, but I may as well show you. Here are some well known verses in WOTS form (the links on the reference will bring you to the NIV translation in BibleGateway, if the verse isn't one you can quote offhand).

Genesis 1:1. "First off, nothing...but God. No light, no time, no substance, no matter. Second off, God says the word and WHAP! Stuff everywhere!"

Psalm 23.
You're my guide and my guard, my minder, my mentor.
What more do I need? What's better at the centre?
You sit me down, put my best CD on,
And my soul remembers who I am again.

(backing) You're with me, you comfort me. (x2)
(lead) And you hold my swaying heart - so soft, so strong.
(backing) You're with me, you comfort me. (x2)
(lead) You stop them tearing me apart - I fear no wrong.
You show me where to go, without telling me;
You set a value on my life, without selling me.
(backing & lead) You're with me, you comfort me. (x2)

You call me to the streets; you show me such good things,
Right things with no hidden strings -
Just your name on, and it's game on.
Your great repute, like a distant flute, it comforts me.

Repeat Chorus

I crawl through the alley of the shadow of cancer;
I know you know the answer, and the battle won't rattle me
You're around, and I've found there's something about your empathy
Your symphony of sympathy, that comforts me.

Repeat Chorus

You lay out a table, you set me down
My rivals arrive from the greatest to least
But my cup's kept full and my head's held high
And you boast about me, your least priest
And make them toast me right through the feast
Boy does it comfort me!

Repeat Chorus

End Song:
I know that your good, your best, your love and your passion
Will stalk me, steer me, stand alongside me
Outlast every fad and fashion, though all eternity
For I'm going to live with you
See heaven's great views from my own cosmic mews
No lease to renew, no terms to review, no one else to view -
Just me and you, me and you, me and you
Right through, to the end of time.

John 3:16-17.
"Cos God's so passionate about the planet that he donates his one and only Son. Whoever invests their life in the Son doesn't die, but gets given this limitless life. D'you think God sends his Son to slam people down? No! He sends his Son to liberate people."

Revelation 1:5-7.
"All the credit, all the clout- give it up, full on, forever to the one who loves us and liberates us from our mess by donating his blood and making us immigrants into his New Nation of God's reps to work for God the Father. Absolutely!

Look up! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a computer game gone 3D?

No, it's HIM, surfing the clouds, full orbit so everyone gets to see.

Even the ones who cut him deep.

Everyone's gutted, 'cos of him.

Bring him on! Absolutely!"

So there you have it. The Word on the Street. I can see some of the benefits of it for looking at the Bible in a fresh way, and I realize it's not trying to pass itself off as a proper translation per se, which is good. But, I'm not gonna lie, the "Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it some computer game gone 3D? No, it's HIM" line cracks me up every time. I can just see Jesus in a Superman cape... So, which G.I. Joe character would the WOTS be? Any other major passages you'd like to see paraphrased?

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Doppler Effect

This isn't directly tied to Christian retail, but even as an arts major I find it way too funny to keep it to myself. These clips are from a TV show called the Big Bang Theory. I've never watched it, but my Geology prof showed the clips today in class.

I'm the Doppler Effect Part 1 (Embedding on this video was unfortunately disabled, so follow the link.)

Monday, February 9, 2009

The 2009 VBS Awards

So I realize I haven't written anything in a shamefully long time, and I can only offer two words in my defense: Annotated Bibliography. Annotated bibliographies are not fun, especially if your professor expects really long annotations. Especially especially if you're dumb enough to wait until the last weekend because you had counted on finding journal articles about your topic, and instead get stuck reading 10 full-length academic books on your topic. If the bibliography had been on anything other than C. S. Lewis, I would have hated my topic by the time I was done.

But enough about that. It's February, and in the Christian retail world, February marks the start of Vacation Bible School. Really, mid to late January is the start of VBS season, since that's when we were given the list of resources to study but, as you may have gathered from the first paragraph, I'm somewhat of a procrastinator. Anyway, this means that last week I went through the websites of our main suppliers and tried to determine the pros and cons of each new VBS program offered. It's actually a pretty cool job. VBS has been a hallmark of my summer ever since I moved to English-speaking Canada. I was 11 at the time, and it was my first exposure to themed VBS. I lived in in Quebec before then, an French Christians are lucky if they get a VBS at all, forget cool themes. Since then I've gone from student to helper to full-fledged leader, and loved every minute of it. Some of the themes were great, like the "Around the World" VBS (I was also doing the drama with my sister for that one, and our roles involved eating large amounts of chocolate) that focused on a different country everyday. Others, such as Jesus to the Rescue (affectionately called the Fireman VBS) were less so. So how do this year's crop of Vacation Bible School Programs stand up to their predecessors? I decided a competition (culminating in a mini-awards ceremony) was in order. So, without further ado, I give you the 2009 VBS Awards.

Here are your contestants:
From David C. Cook Publishings, Wildwood Forest: Discover the Untamed Nature of God
From Group Publishing, Rome: Paul and the Underground Church
From Group Publishing, Crocodile Dock: Where Fearless Kids Shine God's Light
From Gospel Light, Kingdom of the Son: A Prayer Safari
From Standard Publishing, Studio Go! Game Show
From Regular Baptist Press, Polar Extremes: All of Me, All-Out for God

The websites do quite a respectable job summarizing the programs, so I won't bore you with that. Instead, I'll skip right to the awards, as chosen and presented by me :).

Best Name:
This one goes to Crocodile Dock. It's ridiculously fun to say. Sometime, if you're really bored and desperate for ways to amuse yourself, try it three times fast. For extra rhyming fun, try shortening Crocodile to Croc. Croc Dock. Maybe my physics was right after all, and small things do amuse small minds.

Best Theme:
Unquestionably Rome. The early church is an uber cool theme, and I don't think it's been done before. I used to play early church when I was little (okay, so I was an evangelical poster child) and I'm stoked that this VBS will introduce this fascinating period of church history to a new generation of kids.

Best Snacks:
Best Snacks goes to...Wildwood Forest. Seriously, the snacks are easy to make but tie in really nicely to the themes. As a plus, the allotted snack is ice cream at least once. My personal favourite snack is on Gideon Day, and it’s called Battle on a Bagel. The bagel is spread with a sweetened cream cheese or some fluff, then half of it is completely covered in chocolate chips to illustrate the enemy army. Gideon’s army is shown by a couple of butterscotch chips and one colored one (representing Gideon) and presto: Battle on a Bagel. I may actually steal some of the snack ideas for when I have kids of my own.

Best Potential for Decorations:
With some creativity decorating for any one of these themes is sure to be a blast. However, I think the prize for Decorator’s Dream goes to Kingdom of the Son. I mean, who doesn’t want to decorate for an African Safari. Plus, leaders can choose to wear binoculars. How cool would that be?

Best Bible Lessons:
These are actually all well done. My only reservations are that RBP and Gospel Light use the KJV in Bible Lessons. I think Gospel Light could have won this one without the KJV focus, because I love the way they go through the Lord’s Prayer and what we can learn from it (God Listens, God Provides, God Forgives, God Protects, God Rules). RBP also had an excellent survey of the lives of 5 people from the OT and NT who embodied various "extreme" characteristics such as faith and obedience. In the end, I think I have to go with David C. Cook’s Wildwood Forest, because it does a great job of combining Old and New Testament stories, and covers what 2 or 3 of the other VBS’s are trying to teach combined. A close second would be the Rome VBS (theme: God’s Love).

Best Music:
I'm going to have to give this one to Studio Go! Game Show. Is the music my personal favorite? Not really, but it's catchy, easy to sing along to, and lends itself well to actions. I think the kids will love it. Kingdom of the Son would have been great, had it used a more contemporary and understandable translation than the KJV for the Scripture memory songs, because I love the African rhythms. But honestly, there are few better ways to spoil otherwise good VBS material than to use the King James Version of the Bible. I love the KJV. It's beautiful, it's poetic, it sounds grand and educated, but if you're teaching 5 year olds it's completely useless. It's absolutely vital that you use a translation that they can understand.

Best Crafts:
At risk of sounding repetitive, this one goes to Wildwood forest again, mostly because this website has the most detail as far as crafts go. The other VBSes have crafts planned, but I can't see what they are without purchasing the material. But there are some pretty cool ones in the Wildwood Forest program, and they also offer crafts with different levels for each day, which is a nice bonus.

Leader’s Choice Award (Meaning the one Christina would like to do if she was in charge of choosing for her church):
Rome. No question. The theme is fantastic, leaders get to dress up as New Testament characters and the families (or individual classes) tiptoe off to their secret caves (or classrooms) for their meetings. As well, one very lucky guy (ten to one if my church does this they'll ask my dad. Sometimes I hate being a girl.) gets to play Paul, who is under house arrest. The classes visit his "house" one by one and he talks to them. There's also a marketplace setting where kids get to practice sharing their faith with leaders who pretend to be at different stages in their faith walk.

Cool Extra Feature:
Studio Go! is put out by Standard Publishing, and their VBS programs tend to be service-based. This means that every day kids can choose to do one thing to serve their family, friends, or community. Not only does this help the kids learn the importance of serving, it provides leaders with cute stories about what their kids consider "service." Our church did a standard VBS last year, and each day they had to serve a different group. Monday was family, Tuesday was friends, Wednesday was neighbours, Thursday was community. One little 4 year old guy somehow managed to fit taking out the trash (his daily chore) into all 5 of those categories and wouldn't hear of anything else.

So that's it for this year's crop of VBS programs. Anyone have any memories from either teaching or being a student during VBS?

Edit: I've just been told that Regular Baptist Press offers their curriculum both in KJV and NKJV. Good to know, because it makes the curriculum a lot more accessible to the younger students.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Berenstain Bears...and Jesus?

Anyone else remember the Berenstain Bears? I think I used to own just about every adventure of the oh-so-originally named Brother, Sister, Mama, and Papa Bear. I read in rapt excitement (okay, maybe not quite, but really they were pretty decent) as they learned their manners, blazed a trail, trick-or-treated, and put on a school play about Grizzlystiltskin. I laughed as I got a little older and saw just how much my own parents resembled Mama and Papa Bear. But eventually I became too old, the Berenstain Bears books got put away and I thought of them but rarely.

Rarely, that is, until my friend "Hadassah" and I were perusing the children's section of my workplace and made a happy discovery. The Berenstain bears had experienced a renaissance, both spiritually and physically. After a decades-long dry spell, new Berenstain Bears books are being written, this time by Mike Berenstain, the son of original writers Stan and Jan Berenstain. And this time, they're not just learning how to mind their manners, they're learning how to do so with the help of Sweet Baby Jesus. Titles in the new series so far include "The Berenstain Bears Go To Sunday School," "The Berenstain Bears Say Their Prayers," "The Berenstain Bears: God Loves You," and "The Berenstain Bears and the Golden Rule." And even though it's amusing to see the characters I'd seen throughout my childhood talking about God all the time, and I still don't know why they inserted a new baby bear named Honey Bear, I'm pretty happy to see the return of the Bears. The original books were pretty great for teachign moral lessons, and spiritual lessons are a good bonus. If I had kids, I'd probably buy the books for them. Heck, I bought one of them anyway and passed it on to my little brother. Anyone else remember the Berenstain Bears? And what other children's entertainment phenomena should be next in line to be Christianized?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Say What?

I listen to pretty much all Christian music. I find most of the time the lyrics have more meaning, and apply more to my life. God often uses songs from various CCM artists to speak to me, or remind me of things He's been teaching me lately. But sometimes I hear the odd CCM lyrics that just kind of leave me speechless. Not because it's particularly wonderful, poetic, or applicable, but just because it either makes no sense or is really awkward. One of those "wait a minute, did they just say what I think they said?" moments. I've had a few of those over the years as I've absorbed more and more CCM, so without further ado, here it is: Christina's Collection of Odd and Awkward CCM Lyrics. Okay, so the name is still in the works. If you have a suggestion, or lyrics you want to add to the list, go right ahead. The more the merrier

1. "Hit me with the juice/Much obliged got the head of a moose/So mount me on the walls of your living room." TobyMac, Ill-M-I

I love TobyMac. I think his songs are catchy, and most of the time I think I get what he's saying with the lyrics, but this one makes absolutely no sense to me. Is there some deep, metaphorical hidden meaning that I'm missing here?

2. "All you could hear/Was ka-chunk ka-chunk ka-chunk/All you could hear/Was the doctor putting staples in his punk...He could have died that day/Which means that he would not be here." Relient k, Staples

If you contrast Relient k's earlier CD with just about any of their later ones, you see just how much their work has improved. And Staples is easily the weakest track on a weak album. The story? The song is about a guy who crashed his car and had to get staples in his head. The conclusion? He could have died that day, which means that he would not be here (no, really?) but the good would be knowing he's in heaven. Not technically false, I suppose, but really awkward. Every once in awhile I like to listen to it to remind myself of how far Relient k has come since then.

3. “It’s the return of the Boneybone patnas trippin’/Cuz I’m dippin’ in my Lincoln, plus I’m pimpin’, still sittin’ on chrome/Bringin’ you that gospel sound that make you wanna boogie woogie...Gospelalphamegafunkyboogiediscomusic/Awaa nuttin’ but the ghost in me/Supergroovalistic hits ya see” – T Bone, Gospelalphamegafunkyboogiediscomusic

Really, I could have used just about any T-Bone lyric in this compilation. T-Bone amuses me. Make Carman a rapper, and give him a gun and shiny car so he can drive around his 'hood poppin' demons, and you got T-Bone. Someday I will have to devote an entire blog post to him. But I chose this particular lyric because I find it really awkward to use the use the word pimpin' when talking about singing gospel music. Maybe it's just me. Also, the title is pretty ridiculously long.

4. “This is fo’ tha playa playa make you holla holla/Tha kid wit no morals sell his mama fo a dolla” – Grits (They All Fall Down)

Once I was listening to this song and my mom walked in right at this part and was slightly startled. That's when I realized just how awkward it was. That being said, I like Grits. They be like ooh ahh.

5. “Carry me/I’m just a dead man/Lying on the carpet/Can’t find a heartbeat” – Jars of Clay, Dead Man (Carry Me)

Nuff said.

6. “Well the moral of the story/It goes a little something like this/If you got a mullet/Well it’s a haircut, not a fish” – KJ52, The Mullet Song

This one feels like he was really grasping at straws to rhyme, which was probably the case. The funny thing is, it's not even a perfect rhyme. He could have used a word like, say, kiss, which would have made as much sense (or rather lacked as much sense) and it would have at least rhymed better.

7. “Satan is an evil charmer/He’s hungry for a soul to hurt/And without your holy armor/He will eat you for dessert” – Randy Stonehill, Shut De Do

This is the kind of song that gives church kids under the age of ten nightmares. Also I love that throughout the song he talks about "De debil." Way to make him sound terrifying one minute and nonthreatening and almost cuddly the next.

8. “The other night I met a girl/And she looked to be so nice/I asked her for the digits/And she didn't think twice/A couple of days later called her up and asked her out/She said,'with you?' I said, 'with me,'/And then she said, 'without a doubt'/I took her to the Garden where/I guess they grow the Olives/She wore a tighter skirt/Than any I had seen in college/She said, "I love to smoke and drink/While cursing like a sailor"/I asked her where she got her mouth/And if she had a tailor/Finally I walked her to the door to say goodnight/She said, ‘I am an apple,/Would you care to take a bite?’” – dc Talk, That Kinda Girl

As much as I appreciate the premise of this song (which is about how they're holding out for godly women), I find this first verse amusingly awkward. I especially love the lines they attribute to the "bad girl." "I love to smoke and drink while cursing like a sailor" "I am an apple, would you care to take a bite?" And to hear Toby rap those lines just completes it. Check out this tribute video.

9. “Cause I represent a whole new breed of Christian today/I’m authorized and deputized to blow you clean away/I’ve got with me two bullets that overcome all sin and crud/One bullet is called the word of my testimony/And the other one’s called the blood.” – Carman, Satan Bite the Dust

Again, this whole song is just awkward. I fully believe in spiritual warfare, but writing songs about being a deputy in the Wild Wild West (Jesus is the sheriff, of course) and crashing saloon parties to bust Satan and his demons is just, well, odd. And kinda trivializes spiritual warfare and turns it into a joke, on some level. If you've seen the music video you know what I mean.

10. “Someday we’ll drink to this and say/Remember when we died? We went out in flames....I’ll take my heart back/And set the people free/I’ll leave the dead to die/There will be blood on the streets.” – The Classic Crime, The Fight

This is part of an emerging genre my sister and I like to call chremo (or christian emo). My friend "Becca" assures me this song is a spiritual metaphor of some kind, but I haven't figured it out yet. In the meantime I find it almost creepy, especially the line about blood on the streets.

11. “When the toast is burned/And all the milk has turned/And Captain Crunch is waving farewell/When the big one finds you/May this song remind you/That they don’t serve breakfast in hell.” – Newsboys, Breakfast

Strictly speaking, I'm pretty sure this is absolutely true. I've not been to hell myself, but I doubt they serve breakfast there. But I remember hearing this song for the first time when I was 7 and being so fascinated by the unconventional reference to hell that I made my friend Isaac put it on repeat.

12. “Where I and I is free/Jah set my mind at ease/Will I stay cool in the shade even at 96 degrees?” - P.O.D., Set Your Eyes to Zion

It's the word jah that most amuses me in this lyric. They use it throughout the song in the strangest places, and I have no idea what they're trying to say. I think maybe they're trying to use the German word for yes, but if that's the case they've totally butchered the pronunciation. I'm also having trouble discerning exactly what they meant by "where I and I is free." It's like I can almost get it, but not quite.

13. “You need that boy/Like a bowling ball/Dropped on your head/Which means not at all.” – Superchic[k], Bowling Ball

Again, this is one I really don't need to write much about. It speaks for itself. Someday I will use that line on a friend whose boyfriend I don't like.

14. "Professional." - Switchfoot, Amateur Lovers

Okay, so this one doesn't look awkward in print, but it definitely sounds awkward. P-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-professional. It's like they're hissing and stuttering at the same time. Really, it's kinda creepy.

So, have I missed anything? What other strange and awkward CCM lyrics could be added to my list?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Adventures of Manga Jesus

I was never much into Manga. I knew some people who were, and I respected that, but I honestly do not even remember cracking open a Manga book. The closest I got was an Archie comic and, manga illiterate though I may be, I realize it's not at all the same thing. So when I first saw the Manga Bible at work (although I was not working there yet at the time) I was intrigued and amused. I picked it up, looked at it a bit, called my mom over to see what I had found, shared a little laugh (look at the Bibles they're coming up with nowadays), and didn't think much of it anymore.

Then last week a local youth leader was in looking for Bibles for some of his youth, and this was one of the ones he chose. He commented on it when he came to the counter, and I pretty much agreed with what he said. Personally, I'm not terribly interested in reading about the adventures of Manga Jesus and his Manga Disciples. I'm afraid I'd burst into hysterical laughter every time I opened my Bible, which might interfere with serious study. It's kind of like The Word on the Street (affectionately known as the Gangsta Bible), I bought that one entirely for my own personal amusement. But the thing is, this does have the potential to get some people reading the Bible, which is cool. And it has the full text of the NLT, which is my personal favourite translation, because it strikes a nice balance between conveying the exact wording and the thoughts of the original scriptures. So if reading about the adventures of Manga Jesus brings them closer to God and teaches them about His word, good for them. Personally, though, I'll stick to my Life Application Study Bible.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Me, Myself, and Bob

I'm a huge Veggietales fan. The first VHS I ever owned was Madame Blueberry. It was given to me by someone who had only a cursory knowledge of my family and thus was unaware that we did not own a TV on which to watch said VHS. I can't even remember who gave it to me, so I don't know who to thank for my obsession. When we finally did acquire a television, I was at the age where I could appreciate Veggietales more fully, because I got some of the references that went right over my younger siblings' heads. And appreciate it I did. Throughout my middle and high school years, my appreciation for Veggietales partially defined me and connected me with like-minded friends. I made two new friends on my very first day of high school thanks to a Larryboy pen, which sadly broke soon after. The one girl remains one of best friends to this day. Our goal in life, a few years back, was to each discover (well, synthesize, really) an element. She was going to name hers Bob while I named mine Larry. I am now studying Latin and History at a liberal arts school and she is in Arts/Computer Science, which threw a wrench in those particular plans. While that particular dream may now be dead (or, at least, comatose) our love of Veggietales, however, has lasted far longer than it probably should.

So when my sister asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I decided I wanted Phil Vischer's autobiography (complete with a lovely Larryboy bookmark). I figured it'd be a great way to learn some little known facts about my favorite episodes, not to mention figure out what exactly had happened to Veggietales with the whole bankruptcy thing. I figured it'd be interesting and funny- after all, it was written by the writer of Lyle the Kindly Viking. It was, indeed all of those things. Did you know that the Hairbrush Song was originally the Razor Song? Mike Nawrocki had no children at the time and thus had no problem with that, but Phil and his wife Lisa (better known as the voice of Junior Asparagus) suggested the change to a more innocuous object. Perhaps my favorite piece of information was that it was college kids working in Christian bookstores who were largely responsible for Veggietales' mainstream success (we are a great bunch, aren't we?). It was enjoyable, even if some of the descriptions of the computer programming involved went a little over my head. The first 19 chapters were pretty much exactly what I expected.

Then the last 2 chapters hit me like a bit of a spiritual sucker punch. I wasn't expecting to learn much from a book called "Me, Myself, and Bob," except maybe that God made me special and loves me very much. But then he started talking about wrestling with God as he watched his dream of impacting the world for God through children's ministry- be the Christian Disney, if you will- die. QWERTY or no QWERTY, when he talked about what he'd learned today, I saw how much I had to learn too. I could ramble for pages about the things God taught me through this book, the dreams I put back into His hands yet again, but it wouldn't do it justice. I guess I'm a much for effective communicator when it comes to lampooning things, which in a way is kind of sad. Suffice it to say that I highly recommend this book, and thanks to Phil Vischer's story of talking vegetables I now have a better understanding of what it means to be right in the centre of God's will. Because if God truly did make me special, and He does love me very much, then there is no better place I could be.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Jalapeno Peppers and Progressive Apostles

January is pull month at your local Christian bookstore. It's when we make a list of our inventory and return what hasn't sold yet and most likely won't. Finding some of the CDs can be a bit of an adventure, especially in sections where every CD is by a collection of artists. Those usually stay alphabetized for about 5 seconds. So, since merchandise is being pulled from every section, you pretty much get to see absolutely every CD currently in store. This can be a temptation, as I saw several titles I wanted (I miraculouslhy restrained myself. The state of my post-Christmas bank account may have helped.). I also saw a few titles that intrigued me, and made me want to giggle. Without further ado, here are my three favorites. Two of the three got pulled. Bonus points if you can guess which two.

1. Seriously Hot Worship
Okay, so the title is a bit unconventional for a worship collection and the jalapeno pepper on the cover is even less so. That's not a huge deal. although I would probably migrate to Laura Story myself. What really got me on this one was the track listing. There were 50 "well-known worship songs" on the back and I recognized exactly zero. As well, whoever titled the worship songs seemed to have difficulty making up his mind. Fully 80% of the songs have an alternative title in brackets: We Come in Your Name (You Have Been Lifted,) If I Could Pierce These Clouds (Mystery,) Fire by Night Cloud by Day (We Will Not Go,) and so on... My favorite? God So Loved This Whole World (Yeah Yeah Yeah.)
2. New Smokey Mountain Gospel Volume 2
Honestly, there's not much to say about this one. It was in the Southern Gospel section, which I don't usually peruse much. When I saw this title, I had three questions that begged to be answered. First of all, what on earth is New Smokey Mountain Gospel? Secondly, how exactly does it differ from Old Smokey Mountain Gospel? And lastly, how on Earth did such an obscure genre become so popular that 2 or more volumes were needed for its compilation. So far these questions are rhetorical, but if you have answers, by all means, please enlighten me. That way, if a customer comes in torn between New and Old Smokey
Mountain Gospel, I can tell them the pros and cons of each.
3. Apostle Donald L. Alford and the Progressive Radio Choir: Then and Now
Seriously, how can such a title now make you giggle, or at least make your lips twitch in mild amusement. I do realize part of my reaction is denominational. I've been to United Baptist Church, a Wesleyan Church, multiple Christian and Missionary Alliance Churches, and a non-denom or two thrown in for goood measure. I have never heard anyone referred to as Apostle Bob, or Apostle Sally. In fact, I was under the impression from a Sunday School lesson in the somewhat hazy past that Apostles contributed to the canon of Scripture in some way. I doubt Donald L. Alford did this, although his definition of apostle probably differs from mine somewhat. It may be a reference to a spiritual gift he feels he has, based on Paul's list of spiritual gifts in his first letter to the church in Corinth. That's legitimate, I guess, although I'd love to see what happened if everyone started doing this. Prophet Bob Smith. Healer Alice Jones. Interpreter Doug Sanders. Anyway, combined with The Progressive Radio Choir, it just seems like a bit much.
So there you go: the three most interesting CDs in our music library. Perhaps you can see why they may not have sold as many copies as originally anticipated.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The New Life Bible, or the Easy-to-read life-book

I'm a bit of a Bible translation geek. Somewhere between seeing Baby Got Book for the first time and starting to work at a Christian bookstore, I decided I was going to try and buy every translation of the Bible I could get my hands on. My count so far is 17, and they range from the KJV to the Word on the Street. Some of them are great. I love the poetry of the NKJV, and I confess to having a soft spot for the Message. I would never use it all by itself, but it's good at making me see Bible verses in a new light. My personal favorite is the NLT. I love that it is totally readable while still being a translation rather than a paraphrase, and it distinguishes between the Greek words aner and anthropos to boot :).
But some translations left a slightly less favorable impression on me. Take the New Life Bible, or NLB. According to the description on the back, it uses "a unique and academically proven 850-word vocabulary." That's right. The whole Bible, using only 850 different words. It kind of makes me think of Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss, which was written as a result of a dare to write a book using 50 words or less. The whole thing is really stilted and awkward. The authors are apparently big fans of hyphens. The word parable is rendered picture-story. Mercy, grace, and a variety of other such nuanced words are replaced with loving-kindness. And, my personal favorite moment as far as awkwardness is concerned, the word homosexual is rendered people-who-do-sex-sins-with-their-own-sex. I get, and even in a lot of ways support, what the translators of the NLB are trying to do. They want to put out a Bible that the average unchurched person in our culture, who isn't terribly familiar with words like propitiation, justification, and atonement. But I think they took it a bit far. The tone wasn't just readable, it was patronizing. Moreover, it's important to realize that the original Greek of the NT, for instance, is a whole lot more nuanced than English. Even in more mainstream translations like the NIV one English word could be used in place of several Greek ones, so we often put a different slant on English verses than was put on the original Greek. For someone who is new to Christianity and looking for a very readable Bible, I'd suggest the NIrV, the ICB (the International Children's Bible, but I have a 20-year-old friend who uses it and loves it), or reading a translation like the NLT, the NIV, or the ESV (watch me get attacked for lumping the three together :P) in conjunction with a paraphrase like the Message. It's a lot easier than sloughing through a tedious collection of monosyllabic words peppered with awkward hyphens.