Category Archives: Music

2013 in Books: Non-fiction (part one)

Due to my need to categorise this is part one in the non-fiction books. On a side-note I’m finding Goodreads a great way of keeping track of my reading.

Biography

OneWildLifeFrontCoverART-sm1. One Wild Life – Claire Mulvaney

This qualifies as biography (in my mind!) in that the author Claire Mulvaney tells the stories (and interviews) people around the globe who are working for social change. From Ireland to India she introduces over 30 people working to make the world  better place. With a few pages per person its a great book to dip into every day and come away inspired and motivated to make a difference. Find out more on her site here.

51eaYJmEwfL._AA160_2. Adventures of a Waterboy – Mike Scott

No matter if you’re a fan of the Waterboys or not this is a great read and wonderful insight into life as a musician. I read Peter Carlin’s ‘Bruce’ at a similar time and Mike Scott’s writing is vastly superior – unsurprisingly.

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3. Where Are You Really From? – Tim Brannigan

I think everyone from Northern Ireland should read this – especially if you come from a Protestant background. Fascinating and incredible story of growing up black in West Belfast in the 70s and spending time in the H blocks.

Honourable mention for ‘Stillness and Speed: My Story’ by Dennis Bergkamp which isn’t really by him but more a series of interviews. Bergkamp was undoubtedly one of the best footballers to grace the Premiership. His insights and story of a playing career spanning Ajax, Inter Milan and Arsenal are a must read for the football geek. and it was only 59p on Kindle. Bargain.

Theology/Christian

Interestingly I found myself reading much less Christian books in 2013 although maybe I was just being more selective!

JTMEE1. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes – Kenneth Bailey

Kenneth Bailey is a Middle-Eastern scholar (and lived there for 40 years) who has written some brilliant books unpacking the context of the Middle East at the time of Jesus helping bring deeper understanding of many of Jesus’ encounters and parables. The section of Jesus and women was particularly helpful with some of the material on the parables similar to his earlier works Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes.

WMF2. The Word Made Flesh – Eugene Peterson

I feel I’m starting to turn into Jaybercrow as my love for Eugene Peterson’s writing reaches adulation. Maybe its about stage of life or experiences but I find Peterson incredibly insightful, earthy and inspiring.This is the fourth in Peterson’s wonderful ‘Spiritual Theology’ series. Continuing the parables theme – I really enjoyed getting stuck into them this past year, also dipping into Ched Myers ‘Binding the Strong Man’.

STPOTC3. Seek the Good of the City – Doug Banister

A free ebook (get it here) this is a wonderfully short, holistic and practical guide to what it looks like to seek to bless the city.

Honourable mention to Multiplying Missional Leaders by Mike Breen – another practical and provocative read.

What were your best biographies and theology/Christian reads of 2013?

Next up is leadership and productivity.

the soapbox is on the move

No I’m not leaving wordpress. After a summer of travelling – a final update on that may come, the time has finally come when my housemate (and landlord) is getting married, and the soapbox is turfed out one the street. Well to another street at least.

There is much to blog about from recent weeks and months, a long awaited follow up to ‘any women on the go’ perhaps, there will be something on Palestine after hearing lots of interesting stuff on that topic, and the fabulous Greenbelt at which Miss Beth Rowley, Brian Houston and beer and hymns in the ‘Jesus arms’ were all highlights. Philip Yancey and Brian McLaren weren’t bad either. But alas I am packing up my life. I’m shocked to discover how many books I posess. They take up so much more room out of bookshelves as well. Moving does force you to be a little ruthless with some of your possessions – our blue bin is rapidly filling and the local second hand bookshops may soon be overflowing. There is something incredibly therapeutic about getting rid of stuff – I remember crookedshore once giving some fascinating insights on decluttering and it reminding us not to put down too deep roots. Living out of a rucksack for 2 months also reminded me that I really can live so much more simply with less clutter, less clutter (and probably less time online) leaving more time for some of that soul (in the full sense of all compassing – can you tell i’m reading NT Wright?) enriching time with people, time to think, read, reflect and dream…

A Man Called Cash – Steve Turner

I sat slightly embarrassed on the bus a couple of days, misty eyed as I read the last few chapters of Steve Turners fantastic look at the life of Johnny Cash. Unlike many biographies he didn’t gloss over anything, its a brutally honest appraisal yet that is exactly how Cash himself was. Its made me dip back into the back collection of ‘the man in black’ and discover the haunting power of many of his songs.

Beginning to understand more of who Cash was, the transparency of his faith and failings has breathed new life into many of his songs. The man who dressed in black, and had seen so much of death was at the same time someone obsessed with life. His faith and Turner’s last chapter on that inspired me no end. Cash for me is an example of a treasure in a clay pot – all is there to see and amid the failings God is clearly at work. Perhaps Cash lived out that battle in public that most live out in private, pretending n the outside that everything is fine when actually the pain, the struggles are overwhelming.

Perhaps Cash’s greatest attribute was the recognition that he knew what it was like to be in the places were many are, so when it came to faith there was never a self-righteous, sanctimonious or ‘preachy’ way with him. Larry Gatlin described Cash and June’s life as an open book, people who weren’t perfect but had found hope that they shared. The God that shined through Cash related and spoke to people as he wasn’t dressed in cliches, and genuinely cared for people. Bono summed it up well

“People were selling God like a commodity, and I couldn’t relate to them. Then I met Johnny Cash and i felt like him. You read the scriptures and you realise that he’s actually like these guys in the scriptures. He’s not like these weirdos.”

Maybe a good dose of Cash-esque honesty may be of more use to the church than slick programmes and great pretenders…

The Boss

Who is there who can top a 2 and 3/4 hour set from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band? They may have taken a while to get going, but when they did it was amazing. Sometimes after a gig you can feel you’ve played out an artist but I’ve been delving back into the back collection ever since. Here’s a wee snippet from the gig. I’m not even going to try to put it into words. Check him out yourself…

Some of the clips on youtube of Bruce playing with u2 and REM are well worth checking out.

After all the excitement of Thursday night, the soapbox ventured out to the *insert energy drink brand* soapbox races at Stormont. On a sunny afternoon Stormont is a great venue, a lush green oasis in Belfast’s suburban sprawl. Unfortunately this soapbox wasn’t racing but some of the racing was pretty funny. Some of the competitors appeared to have forgotten to road test their machines, some had clearly spent far too much time in their garages! Interesting afternoon out but they maybe did string it out too long as the crowd drifted off with not even Colin Murray’s not quite suited to a family day out humour struggled to keep people there.

What better way to end a day like that with frisbee at seapark…

Long live the storytellers and prophets

Last night i was at a gig by Martyn Joseph – a Welsh singer songwiter, who has been plying his trade for a couple of decades. He’s no chart topper, but then he’s still around unlike a lot of today’s manufactured pop. How old do I sound? Over the course of 3 hours (with a break in the middle), he played songs and answered questions about his music and life. At times he was a stand up comedian, a master storyteller gripping us with his stories, at times he was the angry prophet railing against closure of welsh mines, of senseless loss of life, celebrity and politicians, at times he had us singing along to Elvis, and at other times the beauty and tenderness of his songs brought tears to our eyes. His songs are in many ways simple – about life and what he sees, whether in the news or an old lady in the post-office. He has that gift of involving us in the songs, of bringing melody and lyrics to express that which often we find difficult to express. I long for more musicians like him – the storytellers and prophets not afraid to write raw honest songs, who aren’t at the mercy of the record company or swayed by the whims of the buying public..

I have seen the future, and it is 3D

u23dI went to see U23D last night, not quite sure what to expect. After trailing my jaw in through the door after the cinema informed us that tickets were £10 ‘because it was 3D’ we collected our glasses and fell into our seats thinking ‘this better be good’.

I’ve never been to an imax before so this was my first 3D experience. It was pretty amazing, once you got use to the weird feeling of the glasses, I was finding it hard not to clap, sing and join in as it felt just like i was there. The clarity was increidble. Bono’s hand and Adam Clayton’s guitar head coming out of the screen at you is a slightly odd experience. The shots that captured it best were of the drum kit, the crowd bouncing and the view from the stage.

I have to agree with the belfast beard though that it brought back to me just how U2’s more recent songs just don’t compare to the epics that are ‘Pride’, ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’, Sunday, Bloody Sunday’ or my all time favourite U2 song ‘Bullet the Blue Sky’ with its screaming angry guitars .

The depth perception was incredible, I’m looking forward to see how this makes it into mainstream film-making.

blogs are like buses

waiting.jpgOn the subject of buses I have noticed that my 8.15 4A Metro bus often catches and overtakes the 8.05. Which has little to do with anything. I spent a bit of time on the bus and train in the weeks coming up to the holidays. I’ve loved enjoying the rolling countryside between Dublin and Belfast, and watching the city go by from the top of a double decker. As I made a couple of trips in the car and remembered blogging about road rage in the Christmas traffic this time last year, I realised that public transport has been teaching me patience. In the car I want to be in the fastest lane, on the bus I have no option but to sit back, enjoy my book or the wonder of creation (outside and inside the bus). The bus has helped me enjoy the journey, not rushing to the destination.

I guess a lot of my thoughts have been on advent recently and trying to learn to participate in waiting. Saw this picture/quote on the mockingbird’s leap and on Rick Hill’s blog and thought i’d share it. Certainly pertinent to the advent season. I am brewing a part 2 to any women on the go, especially after we had a sermon on the very topic in church, but it may need to wait until I get an exam over and done with mid-January. Although knowing me that will probably mean some prolific blogging! One of my highlights of the last few weeks has been getting a ticket to see the boss in Dublin. Crookedshore has some great insights into his trip to Springsteen and worship.

World on Fire

I’ve always thought this an awesomely provocative video. A year ago I did a talk on money, and how as followers of Jesus we should think about money. As I was preparing it I realised that often my reaction to the inequalities in the world is that I should spend less, and not be so wasteful. But then I realised that all I was actually doing was being tight, not generous. God is generous and if you have a look at parts of the bible like Leviticus 19 and Deuteronomy 15 you’ll discover that he wants people who claim to follow him to mirror that generosity.

On a side issue, too often people think Old Testament and flinch, or think OT law – irrelevant. But if you take the time to check out what God was saying you may be surprised. God was trying to give his people some good stuff – he was saying this way that I am giving you to live isn’t a drag but is the best way there is, full of powerful visual reminders of who he is. If the Jews had ever lived out the important bits of the law they would have had a revolutionary society and economic system in which there would have been no long term poverty, immigrants, widows, orphans, the disenfranchised would all have been provided for and taken care of. The only place we see this working out is in Ruth where Boaz follows the instructions in the law to be generous and provide for the poor, not to be greedy by not harvesting every grain of whatever it was he grew from his fields.

So back to Leviticus 19 – where the whole ‘love your neighbour’ thing comes from – it is essentially talking about what it means to be holy – God’s definition is vastly different from one lots of Christians have today. Yeah there are several culturally contextual things but justice and generosity come out, and holiness isn’t about sitting on your own exuding peaceful thoughts – holiness is public and social. God knows the temptation to greed in all of us and when we are greedy we mistreat others – the roots of oppression and slavery (more on that to come later).

So coming back to my original point I realised if I am to live generously that means living more simply, but the money or excess I save is to be given away to those who need it. Hardly revolutionary I know but its easy to kid ourselves by spending less when the goal of spending less on stuff we don’t need is to be more generous to those who are in need…