Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Rebecca tapped line three and, without thinking, said, “9-1-1. What’s your emergency?”
Two years as the sole dispatcher in the sleepy little town of Frankfort, Illinois, and she had never had anything more exciting than the rare heart attack. On some days she was grateful for not having to bother with many serious problems, but on other days, she found herself wishing for some sort of excitement, anything to bring life into this withered, old town. The heavy breathing in her ear hinted that today maybe that day.
The wheezed breathing finally began to calm. Rebecca spoke calmly into the headset, “9-1-1. How can I help you?”
Only low sobs could be heard over the line.
Then came breathy whispers, “Please… oh God! He’s got a gun! There is a man with a gun out there!”
Silence was the only thing that passed through Rebecca’s dropped jaw for several moments. Could something like this really be happening? No. It must just be a prank, just some rowdy kids looking for some entertainment.
That wasn’t it. Rebecca knew every soul in this town, which is commonplace in towns as small as Frankfort, and she couldn’t think of anyone, child or adult, that would do something so foolish. That left one possibility.
“Sir, where are you?”
“In Roger’s…”
“The police are on their way. Stay calm.” They weren’t yet, but she thought that it would comfort the man. In reality, the on-duty officers will probably stare off into space, unbelieving, for several minutes before they begin to scramble around, trying to decide what to do. The small-town lawmen were by no means ready for something like this… then again neither was she.
Regaining her thoughts, Rebecca spoke again, “Tell me everything that you can. What’s happening now?”
One more sob, then feigned collectivity.
“The restroom… I’m in the restroom.”
“Have there been any shots yet? Are you hurt?”
He took a deep breath, “No, I’m fine. No shots. I think I’m the only one that saw… that saw the gun.”
“You’re the only one that saw the gun?”
“Yes, I think so.” His breathing was slowing getting louder. “He walked in. I looked at him and gave him a nod… but he just smiled a wicked, evil smirk. And then his eyes… his eyes! His eyes gave him away… then I saw the gun in his hand. I ran into the restroom and called you. Please, tell them to hurry!”
Rebecca sighed, “They will be there any moment. You said that you haven’t heard any unusual noises coming from the store?”
Strangely calm, “No… no noises.”
Rebecca then heard door hinges squeaking. He was leaving the restroom.
“Don’t go out there!” she nearly screamed into the headset.
A few footsteps, fewer sobs, and a gunshot.
Rebecca cried.
Rob Stittes looked down at his wallet as he slid his driver’s license under the clear plastic pouch that was created to hold IDs. He kind of liked the name, Robert James Stittes, or Rob. He just might keep this one a little longer. Maybe he could make Rob his new “real” name. Why not? He was the only one that would know, the only one that would call him, Rob.
He thought, for a moment, about his “real” name. He only had a vague idea as to what it was exactly. The information had long ago become jumbled in with a vast pile of fake identifications. But really that pile was him (so in that sense, they really wouldn’t be fake, right?). He was all of them: Coop Smith, Jim Oliver, John Henson, etc. His “actual” name was of no importance. So he had forgotten it.
But his name was not the most important aspect of the man presently called Rob. No, it was the fact that he knew exactly when the man would walk through the door. You see, he was the master of predicting people, almost to the point of perfection. Unfortunately this ability failed to transfer over into games of chess, but that was okay. The games that he played were so much more entertaining then a silly board game.
Rob had gone through the convenient store’s doors and walked directly into the restroom. On his way into the store, he saw a car driving down the highway some distance away. Simply by the look on the man’s face as he was driving, he was able to make several conclusions about the man: the man had been driving for quite sometime, he likely needed to drain his bladder and stretch his legs, and he also may need to get gas. All of this told him that, if he was right, the man would walk in the restroom within one or two minutes at least or three or four at most.
He had to act fast, so he made for the restroom, reaching for his cell on the way. The simple number was dialed before he ever opened the door.
“9-1-1. what’s you emergency?”
FBI Agent Steve Clark watched as the man entered the convenient store. Fitted white t-shirt under a thick blazer, Levi jeans, and some moderately worn sneakers, it had to be him.
Clark had been following the trail of one of the most elaborate and elusive serial killers of all time. He was called Thanatos, after the Greek god of death, Clark was one of the few people, less than ten, who knew what is believed to be Thanatos’ real name. But unfortunately he is still one in the vast number of people that have never seen his face.
Before his first kill, Thanatos had taken the liberty of almost completely erasing his identity. This, of course, gave the authorities quite difficult time because it is very hard to catch a man that is virtually non-existent. But that was not the extent of the trouble he has caused agents and cops alike.
It was only after the eleventh of twenty-eight murders that authorities even pieced together that one man was responsible for all of the killings. The killings were done in different states and have occurred coast to coast, from Oregon to Vermont. Also each of the victims was killed in a different fashion. The first was beheaded with an axe. The second was shot execution style. The third received a screwdriver to first his neck, then his temple. The rest were even more creative, but just as quick and brutal.
In fact all of the Thanatos Killings had only two things in common: 1) each victim’s eyes were closed and 2) the killer, Thanatos, called the dispatcher himself.
When someone dies with their eyes open, their eyes remain open after death. Typically during a murder like Thanatos’ more recent ones (surprising and quick), the victim dies with their eyes open because they never knew what hit them. That would mean that Thanatos would have to close their eyes for them after they died.
Because of the manner in which the victims were killed, authorities also wondered how the victims had time to call 9-1-1. Most had been attacked from behind or were suddenly attacked in a secluded area. But later, after Number 22, when Clark joined the case, he suggested that perhaps the killer was calling the dispatcher himself.
Not much else was known about Thanatos for a very long time because he was so efficient at what he did. All the authorities had to go off of for first twenty-four kills was what they were able to infer from the crime scenes and the emergency call. It seemed as though dancing around the FBI and the various police forces was as simple as breathing to Thanatos…
Until Number 25, the murder of Scott Hodges was when Thanatos began to slip. Still most authorities thought that Thanatos was merely getting bored with them and was trying to make things interesting. But after Number 27, Clark and some local officers found Thanatos’ hotel room. In that room Thanatos had left behind something very valuable, his journal.
He kept everything recorded in his journal. While reading some of the more recent entries, Clark learned that Thanatos wasn’t making mistakes for the fun of the game, but rather he was having a mental breakdown. Apparently hopping across the country killing people for two years isn’t the best idea if one wants to maintain mental stability. The journal also served to confirm that it was Thanatos who called 9-1-1.
Needless to say Clark had been hot on Thanatos’ trail ever since. And now he was at, what he believed to be, the location of Number 29. He would, of course, like to stop it before it happened, but he simply couldn’t know for sure if he had the right man. The man that he followed to this convenient store might not be Thanatos. Besides Thanatos was very proficient with a gun, he would probably easily overtake Clark.
So Clark walked with his cane in hand and sat down on the bench outside. Then he slowly slipped on a pair of very dark sunglasses. Now he was just a local blind man sitting outside of the convenient store and nothing more.
He felt the gun hidden within his jacket and relaxed. Now all he could do was wait and hope that Thanatos would walk right past him on his way out of the store.
Bingo! Yahtzee! Jackpot! An amateur. Rob could always point out the inexperienced ones before they even finished reciting the simple three digit number that so calmly flowed from their lips.
He wanted to chuckle at himself, at this town, at the woman on the other end of the line, but he couldn’t. He was too refined for silly things such as that, so he slowly let the grin fall from his face. Begin scared, heavy breath.
Rob was almost completely in character when she finally managed to say, “9-1-1. How can I help you?”
His own voice trembling as he repressed the sobs, he whispered, “Please… oh God! He’s got a gun! There is a man with a gun out there!”
Scared to death. Her trembling voice, the long awkward silence, it all clearly showed that she had never had someone that may be in some life-threatening danger. And she was scared to death… well maybe not quite yet, but she will be, of that he was certain.
He looked down at his rough hands, he was trembling. Normally he would just be getting into character but not this time. No, this time, this once, he was letting his adrenaline take control. Typically, in a larger city, he would keep his body completely under control because if he made one mistake… Seeing the town and hearing the dispatcher’s voice had confirmed to him that he could just enjoy this one, and that he wouldn’t have to be so overly careful this time.
After a long moment, he heard the dispatcher’s voice once again, “Sir, where are you?”
He quickly recalled the name on the front of the building, “In Roger’s…”
“The police are on their way. Stay calm.”
Oh, he was calm alright, but as for them being on their way… not at all. He knew that in town like this, in a situation like this, the local cops would certainly not be prepared to deal with… him.
She collected herself, “Tell me everything that you can. What’s happening now?”
He pretended to do likewise, “The restroom… I’m in the restroom.”
Her voice came over clear, with a hint of authority this time, “Have there been any shots yet? Are you hurt?” She was really getting the hang of this. Perhaps that’s why he was here, for training.
Deep breath, “No, I’m fine. No shots. I think I’m the only one that saw… that saw the gun.”
Disbelief reverberated through her voice, “You’re the only one that saw the gun?”
“Yes, I think so.” He began to let himself go, this was his grand soliloquy, “He walked in. I looked at him and gave him a nod… but he just smiled a wicked, evil smirk. And then his eyes… his eyes! His eyes gave him away… then I saw then gun in his hand. I ran into the restroom and called you. Please, tell them to hurry!”
She replied quickly, “They will be there any moment. You said that you haven’t heard any unusual noises coming from the store?”
The adrenaline coursed through his veins. His heart was pounding, lungs exploding. What was about to take place was what he lived for. Forget drugs and their cheap, overused highs. This was the greatest high imaginable. A surge of power. He had the power. He always had.
He allowed himself to calm, he heard footsteps coming for the restroom door. He looked at his cell, call duration- two minutes seventeen seconds. Perfect. He was, indeed, the best.
“No… no noises.”
It was out of character, but he didn’t care. He just let the silence settle in.
The doorknob twisted slowly, and then the door began to creek open.
“Don’t go out there!” Silly, silly girl. She had no idea what was happening.
Today was the greatest day that Thomas Johnson had ever known, even after the already seven hour drive with two more still to come. All he needed was a little gas, to go to the restroom, and to stretch his legs.
He pulled into a local convenient store. He got out of the car. His legs were absolutely killing him. Seven hours non-stop will do that to you. He stretched for a good while then turned to the pump.
He was headed for a family reunion in Ohio. He was excited about this because he loved getting together with his family. There was only one problem. Tom lived in Nebraska. The family got together every year, and every year Tom desperately wanted to go. He simply couldn’t take that much time off of work.
This year was different. Tom had received two well earned promotions this year, and along with those came respect. So he told his new boss, Mr. Cross, that he would be taking a two week vacation to see his family in Ohio. Mr. Cross assured him that that would be just fine.
Yes after three years of hell, it looked like his luck was finally turning around. When Christa left him, everything had gone downhill, his job, his health, everything. But now everything was looking up (a cute girl, whom he had recently been flirting with in accounting, even gave him her phone number yesterday).
Everything was beginning to turn around for Tom. He couldn’t believe that he was actually going to see mom and dad tonight, not to mention all of his nieces and nephews. He wondered how big they could have gotten in five years. He simply couldn’t wait to see everyone. Five years is far too long to not see your family.
He was in the store now, walking toward the restroom, head down lost in his pleasant thoughts. He slowly opened the door, forgetting to knock.
As he took a few steps he looked up. There was a man already in there. Tom dipped his head as if to say, “Sorry” and then leave… but before he could apologize, realization hit him like a ice cube down his spine.
He looked at the man. Tears were running down the man’s face. His chest heaved once or twice. In one hand was a cell phone, and in the other a gun, pointed at him.
The last thing Tom saw before the bullet tore its way into his heart was the man’s wicked grin and his eyes…
Tom grunted. Pain ripped through his chest. His vision went black.
Today was the worst day Tom Johnson had ever known.
Rob closed the phone, put the gun away, and then threw on some sunglasses. On his way to the door, he reached down and closed his victim’s eyelids. He hated the man’s eyes.
He quickly walked out the restroom door and made his way through the store. Once he left this store he knew that he was safe. They wouldn’t be able to track him. This town was to little, too back woods, to catch him.
Rob walked away from Roger’s Convenient Store home free.
This was just a game after all… And Rob always won.
The shot didn’t startle Clark. He merely slowly dipped his head in sorrowful acceptance. Thanatos should be coming out the door at any time now.
Sure enough only a few moments passed before the man in the blazer came walking briskly out of the store, this time wearing light shaded sunglasses. He took one look at the “blind” man and continued walking. No need to worry about blind men seeing you.
He was walking for a bicycle that was lying in the field to the right of the store. One would not have even noticed that it was there until someone pointed it out. His back was turned to Clark. Clark couldn’t help but smile at how things were turning out just like he planned.
Clark pulled the pistol out of his jacket, aimed at the man’s back and shot three times. The man fell hard, flinched twice, then lay still.
Clark took a deep breath and took off his glasses. He stood up and walked over to the body as the owner finally made his way out of the store and as the random drivers stopped to see what was going on.
He reached for the dead man’s wallet and stared at the ID.
Robert James Stittes.
So he had gone off the deep end after all. It seemed a little ironic that Thanatos had reverted back to his real name for his final kill.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Review: House

A husband and wife are on their way to marriage counseling, driving down a seemingly deserted back road. Wouldn’t you know it, their tires get slashed, and they have to make their way to a spooky, old bed and breakfast. Once in the house, they meet another couple that got their tires slashed as well and the very creepy owners of the house… oh, and did I mention the killer? Yeah, they also meet a killer named Tin Man that gives them his “house rules” (which aren’t too unreasonable… I mean, what’s so hard about giving him one dead body before sunrise?). Thus the frenzied terror begins.
House is based on the novel of the same name by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti. With Dekker being my all time favorite author, I had pretty high hopes for this movie (even though Thr3e wasn’t so great). Luckily for the most part, I was not disappointed.
Let’s start with the acting. Surprisingly enough most of the acting was very good. There were a few spots where the actors just couldn’t seen to get into character, but I think that those spots were scripting problems than an acting problems. The characters of Jack, Betty, and Leslie were played particularly well, with each actor giving just enough to be realistic while not over doing it.
The same cannot be said for Tin Man. I was completely content with his performance as long as he had the mask on. But he looked like he had no clue what was going on when his mask was off. In fact the worst part of the movie is the line in which Tin Man says, “I’m pure evil… 100%”. If you have ever read House, Showdown, Saint, or Sinner, you know that is classic Dekker-ish line. But the way that it was portrayed was not at all how I would have envisioned it in the book. In the movie it just sounded incredibly cheesy… and not even the good kind of cheesy.
The entertainment factor of the movie is very high. If you want to see a movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat with suspense and terror, than House is probably for you. It manages to drag you into the story and keep you entangled within it without using gore, sex, or language. It is a good, clean movie that is simply very disturbing.
The story of the movie is quite different from the story of the book. The movie feels like they took the basic story from the book and wrote their own new details. This is not a bad thing in my opinion. If they had tried to make the movie exactly like the book, they would have failed miserably. But since they went their own path, the story is comprehendible and works very well for the movie.
Perhaps the greatest achievement for House is that it does not feel like a “Christian” movie. Though the content most definitely does not warrant the R rating or even PG-13, it does feel like a hard PG-13. This is a real horror movie. When I’ve been talking to people about the movie, I tell them that it is both a Christian and horror movie. Almost everyone has responded with complete disbelief (I mean, who ever heard of a Christian horror movie?). We have the production to thank for this. House should make Christian media history as proof that Christian movies can be good and entertaining for both Christians and non-Christians alike.
Overall, House is a well produced, thoroughly entertaining movie. While it is most certainly not a great movie, it is a good movie… and quite frankly you don’t very many of those in regards to Christian movies. Not spectacular, but ground-breaking in its own right nonetheless.

4.6 out of 7

Monday, November 3, 2008

Review: Chiodos- Bone Palace Ballet: Grand Coda

Chiodos is a great band (one of the best in the post-hardcore genre). Their first album All’s Well That Ends Well was by far one the finest sounds within their style’s scene. Soaring vocals, harsh screams, beautiful piano, tearing guitars, Shakespeare quotes… All’s Well… had it all. So the hype was high for the release of their sophomore effort, Bone Palace Ballet.
But Chiodos took a slight departure from the post-hardcore sounds of their debut. Yes, the screams were still there… just in a much smaller dose. Indeed “ballet” was a good word to use to describe the record as it had a, sort of, ballroom dancing feel to it. Luckily it was still Chiodos, and still very good music.
Now Chiodos is releasing a reworked version of Bone Palace Ballet (or maybe it’s more of a special edition… I don’t really know…) called Bone Palace Ballet: Grand Coda. With four new songs, two acoustic versions, and a bonus DVD, you are surely wondering if it is good enough to buy.
The four new songs are dispersed within the original songs and, overall, fit in very well. The style of these songs seems to fall somewhere in between All’s Well… and Bone Palace Ballet. They are each great songs (“Smitten For The Mitten” is by far my favorite), but because they are a little different, they seem to change the feel of the record. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but Grand Coda, sort of, has a different atmosphere than the original album, even to the point that Grand Coda almost feels like a different record. The acoustics are well done, but nothing to get too excited about.
The only real negative comment I have for the record is the absence of “Teeth the Size of Piano Keys”. I will admit that it is not one of my favorite songs by Chiodos, but I would have liked to seen it on Grand Coda. If they desperately wanted to keep the track listing at fifteen songs, I would have been more than happy if they threw out “We Swam From Albatross, The Day We Lost Kailey Cost” and let “Teeth…” come back.
The DVD is interesting enough. The main fare of the DVD is the documentary. It is shot pretty well, and it is fairly interesting. I tend to like documentaries quite a bit because they give you a good idea of how the band members normally act, and this documentary does just that. The live performances at Warped Tour are fun to watch and left me desperately wanting to see them live myself. The music video for “Lexington” concludes the DVD.
If you haven’t listened to any Chiodos yet, I would strongly suggest that you look into getting Bone Palace Ballet: Grand Coda. If you have already bought the original Bone Palace Ballet and liked All’s Well That Ends Well, then there should be plenty of new material for any Chiodos fan to justify buying Grand Coda.

5.7 out of 7

• Smitten For The Mitten
• Two Birds Stoned At Once
• … And Then The Live Screamed, “HELP!”

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I Hope I'm Not Out of Line When I Say...

I am a Christian. Four very simple words… But this statement is, perhaps, one of the most controversial and potent statements in the English language.
Say it. Walk up to complete stranger and say it. I guarantee that at least one out of three people will be either taken aback, give a knowing “Huh.”, or possibly even roll their eyes in disgust. Of course, you will run into people that will congratulate and encourage you. I will not be focusing on those reactions…not here at least; instead I would like to discuss the possible reasons for the negative reactions that will come from claiming to follow Christ and perhaps I can give you a better understanding of what it truly means to follow Christ.
But before I get into that, I would like to refresh everyone’s mind on just what it means to be a Christian. This is what Christians believe in a very small nutshell:
God is perfect. Man was created by God. Man was innocent and had personal fellowship with God. Man sinned and lost his innocence. God’s personal fellowship with man ended because a flawless God cannot stand sin. In order for God to keep his relationship with Man, God ordered that for Man’s sin to be covered, innocent blood must be shed. Animal blood was the only innocent blood, but it had a problem. It didn’t cleanse Man of sin but only covered up the sin.
So God conceived a plan. Two thousand years ago God came to earth as a man by the name of Jesus. Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life, making Him the only man that did not deserve to die. Christ, being both God and sinless man, chose to die on the cross as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. He then rose to life after being dead for three days. We, as Christians, believe that the only way to get to heaven is by believing in Christ and accepting His sacrifice for our sins. Only by being “washed” with Christ’s blood are we able to stand before God.
But Theology and other such matters is not what I want to discuss. Christ tells us that after we are saved, we are to follow Him. Ephesians 5:1 tells us to be imitators of God as dearly loved children. He even tells us to be perfect as God is perfect… now I may be wrong, but that is a pretty high standard to hold one’s self to! But Christ also preached something that was just as controversial, if not more so, He said that He was the only way to heaven. I believe that it is within these teachings that we find a great portion (note: not all) of the world’s dislike for Christianity: 1) they find that Christians are guilty of hypocrisy, and 2) they find Christianity intolerant to other beliefs or religions. So I ask that you open you mind for just a few minutes as I discuss these two points.
Brennan Manning states, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him with their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” Through Manning’s statement we see the effects of hypocrisy, especially within Christianity. But I feel that we, humanity, don’t have the correct outlook on hypocrisy, so let me, if you will, speak first about the non-Christians and then the Christians.
But first let us define hypocrisy. Hypocrisy, to put it simply, is the act of saying one thing, yet doing another thing. But one of the most important aspects of hypocrisy is that it is relative. Take moral standards for example. If I say that I believe it is wrong to smoke a cigarette, but I do. I have committed hypocrisy. But if someone else does not view smoking as wrong, and they smoke. It is not hypocrisy because their actions follow their words.
Please note that I am not arguing moralities, in one way or the other. Hypocrisy, itself, does not distinguish between right and wrong. A murderer who openly admits of his ways and does not attempt to hide his true nature is not a hypocrite. Insane, perhaps but not a hypocrite. Whereas it would be hypocritical for one who openly detests lying to speak a lie. The morality of things such as lying, killing, or cigarettes makes no difference as far as hypocrisy goes.
It seems to me that non-Christians are, typically, quick to point out the hypocrisy of Christians. But I believe that we keep forgetting that others fall short as well. I would imagine that Christians simply stand out more because we have a very high standard that we are told to live by. We are supposed to imitate a perfect God. Wouldn’t imitating someone that is perfect be the highest standard? With such a high standard to live by and being only human, it would seem that Christians would also be more likely to commit hypocrisy more often than non-Christians.
But everyone is guilty of hypocrisy. Everyone has a standard to which they hold themselves to (although some people’s standards are significantly lower than others). If you hold yourself to any standard whatsoever, I would be willing to bet that almost everyone has failed to meet it one hundred percent of the time.
So my call to non-Christians on this matter is to stop being so hard on Christians. Chances are that if you held yourself to their standard, you would be just as hypocritical as them if not more so. Even now you are probably guilty in your own right. Christians make mistakes, just like everyone else. What really counts is where their heart is. So when you see a Christian that you know is guilty of hypocrisy, ask yourself this: are they simply putting on a Christian persona, or do they truly strive to be like Christ?
Christians, we must take control of ourselves. We have got to let our hands not only match our lips, but maybe even give our lips a break. I know that we are going to make mistakes, but it seems that all too often we are using the “I’m only human, I’ll make mistakes” card to justify making them.
This should not be. We should continuously long to be like our Savior. Let our hearts belong to Jesus, and may our words and actions follow suit.
The second problem that I have observed is that non-Christians often believe Christianity to be an intolerant religion. Well… It is and it isn’t. Here is why:
If I were to summarize Christ’s teachings for you, it would go something like this: 1) Christ said that He is the only way to heaven and 2) LOVE.
Now a lot people tend to not like the first one, but I believe that the second clears all concerns of Christ being intolerant. But just to be clear, let me explain myself.
The vast majority often believe that Christ was a sort of hippy-ish man. They think of Him as calm, soft spoken and a very likable guy. Here’s a news flash: Christ was not the man of the hour. He was not a celebrity or superstar (huh…). In fact He was despised by the religious leaders of that time. Why? Because He didn’t just step on their toes, He crushed their toes. Christ came along and told the men that devoted their entire lives to studying God’s Word that they were drowning in their own hypocrisy.
For some strange reason people simply do not like being told that. Yet Christ did. And He didn’t just stop at saying that they were wrong. No, He also told them that what He said was the truth, the only Truth. Apparently some people got a little upset and decided to have Him killed (a little harsh don’t you think?)
Christ was actually quite tolerant of others. He let people believe whatever they felt like believing. He did tell them that they were wrong, but he never tried to force anyone to believe one way or another. He never preached violence or any other radical means of “converting” people to His way (Spanish Inquisition anyone… anyone?).
Instead of using violent means, Christ preached love. He said to love those with different beliefs than you. He said to love those that hate you and despise you. And to love even those that want to kill you. But I feel that we, as humans, most of the time don’t know exactly what kind of love He was referring to. You see, He said that I should love other people more than I love myself. Which is tough thing to do in today’s society; where there are plenty of people that may not even know that it is possible to love someone else more than yourself (Could this selfish mentality be what keeps us from truly understanding Christ’s love, hmm? I bet it has got a least something to do with it). This selfless love means that even if I have never met you, I should love you so much that I should be willing to die for you. That is the kind of love that He was referring to.
But back to the original question, was Christ intolerant?
Yes, perhaps, in some sense Christ was intolerant but most definitely not in the way that we tend to think of intolerance today. I think that a most of the time, we associate intolerance with violence or other negative things such as that. That is simply not the nature of Christ. Narrow-mindedness does not equate to intolerance and Christ’s teachings are very narrow-minded (please note that narrow-mindedness in this sense does not have to have a negative connotation).
Instead we call Christ intolerant merely because He rebuked others. Once again, I don’t see how rebuking someone equates to intolerance. Sure it may not feel good to be rebuked, but rebukes are a very important part of love. It is through the rebukes that we receive from our loved ones that we are able correct ourselves when we are wrong. We rebuke those we love because we love them and want to see them corrected. Christ rebuked His closest friends, the disciples, on several occasions. All but one of them was killed later in their lives for telling of Christ’s love (it sounds like His rebukes didn’t push them away).
With all of that said, here is how I think that we, Christians, should conduct ourselves around non-Christians:
1. I believe that Christians should make their beliefs known and then be done with it (more showing Christ, less preaching Christ). There is absolutely no reason to constantly remind people of your beliefs (most people really do have pretty good memories).
2. Be cautious with your rebukes because people generally don’t like being told that they are wrong all of the time. That is simply common sense.
3. Sometimes Christians tend to shun people of different beliefs than themselves. If Christ befriended tax-collectors and whores, why should we shun Muslims or atheist or anyone else? Instead of separating ourselves from non-Christians or “preaching” to them constantly, I think that Christians should love with Christ’s love and let that be enough.
I hope somewhere that in my small scribbles, you may have found something to reflect upon or perhaps learned something that you had never known before about Christianity. If you have any questions or suggestions, or merely think that I am completely wrong, please let me know… but try to be nice, my self-esteem is very fragile.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Further Inspection of Cider Tables

Several factors have already changed since my note on cider tables. It is because of these factors that I am now writing another note. So please bare (bear) with me as I go along, and perhaps this note will finally help you make an informed decision in, as some call it, the Cider Wars.
The first factor that has changed is the fact that we now know that cider tables do indeed exist. Thanks to the research of my good friend Josh, there is now no question as to the existence of cider tables. This, of course, means that Joseph’s initial argument (the denial of cider tables) is proven false. But Joseph did not let the debate fall after that. No. Now since cider tables were proven to exist, we must discuss the practicality of cider tables.
Joseph and some of those that support him have said that it is simply impractical to have both a coffee table and a cider table. My answer to this is: yes, for some people it is. I believe that if you drink mostly coffee then by all means get a coffee table. If coffee is your drink of choice then it won’t matter if you have a cup of cider at a coffee table every once in a while. But if you drink more cider than coffee, do not refrain from getting a cider table. That sort of reasoning seems completely logical to me: mostly coffee= coffee table, mostly cider= cider table. But if, for some reason, you drink quite a lot of both then I would find that as justification to get both tables. I, of course, personally don’t like drinking cider at a coffee table or vise versa, but does that mean that it is wrong? No. That is merely my opinion; I would like to drink coffee at a coffee table and cider at a cider table.
So you should now see that I don’t discriminate against coffee tables, I am not telling everyone to destroy their coffee tables and go buy cider tables. I am merely supporting those who would wish to get a cider table. Forgive me, but I believe in free country were a man has the right to get a coffee table, cider table, or both, if he so chooses. I simply feel that Joseph is trying to tell us that we should not be allowed to have cider tables. That, my friends, is a violation of our freedom. Joseph is trying to stand up and tell us what we can’t spend our money on. That should not be.
I would like to bring up one more issue that has been brought forth by several people: that there are “children in remote countries of the world who cannot even pride themselves in owning a coffee table”. First of all I agree with Mr. Chance Gibbs when he said that “if a starving person in Africa decides to eat off of a coffee table, so be it.” Indeed, Mr. Gibbs. If someone is truly that poor then a table, of any kind, should be the very least of their concerns, that is just common sense!
Also the frivolous expense of buying a cider table was brought up. Yes, perhaps it is frivolous, but once again let us not bring forth the argument of the poor into this. By even bringing up that argument, we are doing an injustice to those of a lesser means than us. I say this because I know that no one who has talked about the poor or the children in third world countries plans on doing anything to relieve them. I say that cider table discussions are not the correct place to start these debates because we already spend money on things that are far more expensive and just as frivolous. It is our materialism, our consumerism, our humanity that is causing these problems in the world. It is nothing short of hypocrisy to claim that you refuse to buy a cider table because there are other people that couldn’t afford one, when I know that we spend money on things every day that others don’t have the money to even consider buying.
Hopefully you now have a better understanding of my opinion on cider tables. I am sure that I forgot something, so if you still have questions, feel free to ask me. I pray that you will stand will me against the discrimination of certain tables, and support our right as human beings to have any table that we so choose.
God bless,

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My Thoughts On Cider Tables

Yesterday Joseph and I were sitting in our dorm conversing about bands that we would like to see in concert. We were discussing this because we had seen a concert the night before with Trev, Cruise, Brent, and others (so please note that, as a result, both of us go very little sleep the night before). Anyway our conversation took us to a band named Deas Vail. They are a very easy-listening indie band, and so Joseph said that he would like to see them live while drinking cider at a coffee table. I was tired and ready for the conversation to be over, so I said the first thing that came to my mind… “Why that’s preposterous. Why would you drink cider at a coffee table? You drink cider at a cider table.”
Those of you that are my close friends know that I say some pretty outlandish things. Joseph is one of those people, so I expected him to let out a sigh or roll his eyes… something of that nature. No, he says something along the lines of, “those don’t exist!” Thus commenced a five or ten minute debate as to whether or not cider tables exist. I would like to take a few words right now to explain cider tables and whether or not they really do exist.
First of all, Joseph said that they simply do not exist. My rebuttal to his claim was quite simply this: How do you know? Sure I may not be able to find cider tables on Google, but does that really mean that they don’t exist? Of course not! Google doesn’t know everything, and it never will. In order to say that you are one hundred percent sure that cider tables don’t exist, you must first ask everyone on the face of the planet if they have a cider table in their possession. Will we ever be able to do that? No, we will not!
He then asked a question, “Why would you need a cider table?” The answer is that you don’t. There are plenty of people that do not like cider, and obviously, these people would have no use for a cider table. Yet they may still want one for decoration or for their guests. Just as many people that do not drink coffee still have coffee tables. It’s the same principle.
But what if you like cider but don’t have a cider table, so you use a coffee table. Is that allowed? Technically, yes, but honestly wouldn’t you feel so much better knowing that you were drinking your cider at a cider table and not at a coffee table. I mean that is like drinking coffee at a juice table! It’s silly! It is simply silly to drink one type of drink at a table that is not designed to suit that type drink.
I honestly don’t know why Joseph has such a hard time seeing my point of view on the whole matter of tables. But I hope that you do. So if you agree with me then please help me to spread the knowledge of the cider table around. We cannot allow people to remain ignorant to such serious matters as this. But if you disagree with me… don’t be my friend anymore. If you will remember when you became my friend, I had you sign a waver that tied our friendship in with your acceptance of cider tables. So if you refuse to acknowledge that cider tables are indeed real then I am afraid, by contract, we are no longer friends.

With Love and cider,

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Review: Jars of Clay- Closer EP

I will start out by openly admitting that I love Jars of Clay. I am completely addicted to almost all of the music that they have ever put out (and they’ve put out plenty). But I will confess that I only became a big fan around the time of The Eleventh Hour. I just never really listened to them, really listened, until that album came out. By the time of Good Monsters, they were quickly climbing their way to the top of my list… after a few listens to Good Monsters; I decided to elevate them to my 2nd favorite band of all time (right behind As Cities Burn). So being a huge Jars of Clay fan, I was incredibly excited when they announced the release of a new EP. Now the EP is in my CD player, I will answer the question that you are likely wanting this review to answer:
Does it live up to their former releases?
Before I answer that, I will tell you that it is good. It is Jars of Clay, which means that if you have high expectations, you know they will most likely be either met or exceeded. That statement is proven accurate with Closer. For the majority of Jars of Clay fans, I imagine that all I would really need to say is, “it’s new Jars of Clay songs”, and you would instantly know that my words mean nothing. But for the rest of you, I will discuss the songs individually.
Track number one is the title track. It has a nice radio-friendly, pop love song feel to it (almost reminiscent of “Unforgetful You”). “Safe to Land” is next. It is a slower, love ballad that could happily find its place on any of Jars of Clay’s previous releases. The remakes of “Love Song for a Savior” and “Flood” come next. While they are not better than the originals, it is still very nice to hear Haseline’s matured vocals on these great songs. Finally “Prisoner of Hope” closes the EP. It is another slower song that reminds me of “Light Gives Heat”. “Prisoner of Hope”, while being a great song, is by far my least favorite song on the CD (of course with several more listens that could change… I seem to do that with Jars of Clay).
Overall this is a great EP by a great band. It most definitely meets the high standard that they have set for themselves.

6 out of 7

• All five tracks are highlights

Monday, September 22, 2008

Review: Underoath- Lost in the Sound of Separation

Over the last few years Underoath has enjoyed significantly more success than the countless other bands in the hardcore genre, so hopes are high for their newest effort. But before I reveal just how this new record stacks up against their former works, let us review Underoath’s history.
In 2002 Underoath (a much talked about underground hardcore band) released their first nation-wide album with The Changing of Times. With the record came great popularity within the hardcore community. But soon after the release, lead vocalist Dallas Taylor left the band. Fortunately this was not the end of Underoath. They managed to find a new vocalist named Spencer Chamberlain. But with a new vocalist came a new sound much too their hardcore fans disappointment. One listen of They’re Only Chasing Safety will tell you that they went screamo (“Reinventing Your Exit” anyone?). Though their new sound turned off many longtime fans, it proved to be much more accessible thus creating new fans.
So when Underoath announced that they would be releasing Define the Great Line in 2006 there was one question on everyone’s lips: Could Underoath blend the heaviness of The Changing… with the accessibility of They’re Only Chasing…? The answer was yes. Define the Great Line was a monumental record because you could get your hardcore pummeling with songs like “Everyone Looks So Good From Here”, while your screamo tendencies were fed with “Writing on the Walls”.
But with Define the Great Line being so important people were even more curious to see where Lost in the Sound of Separation would take their sound and how the two would compare.
Before you get too worried, I will tell you that this is a good record. It is very good and worth you money, so if that is all you wanted to hear then please, stop reading and go buy it. Instead I will compare Lost in the Sound… to Define the Great Line.
If I could give Lost in the Sound… a subtitle, it would be Define the Great Line: Part II. This record feels very much like a sequel to Define the Great Line in fact incredibly so. For instance many songs could have the same style of subtitle: “A Fault Line, A Fault of Mine” could be “A Moment Suspended in Time: Part II” and “The Created Void” could be “Writing on the Walls: Part II”. These are not necessarily bad things, but overall the sound is basically of Define the Great Line (but that is the curse of the hardcore genre).
Were this album truly excels at is the lyrics. Define the Great Line was a lyrical journey into the depths of human brokenness (eventually finding hope through Christ), and Lost in the Sound… feels like a continuation of that as well. The lyrics feel like they are coming from a Christian that isn’t quite living up to his/her duty in Christ or maybe even dealing with their own hypocrisy.
Overall I would say that Lost in the Sound of Separation is slightly better than Define the Great Line because the lyrics are much better. The variety of sound is still there with songs like “Breathing in a New Mentality” (which opens the record with a false start) you should get your hardcore fix, and songs like “Too Bright to See Too Loud to Hear” (which sounds quite a lot like the softer side of As Cities Burn) will give you a good dose of melody, much like Some Will Seek Forgiveness…
If you liked Define the Great Line then go get Lost in the Sound of Separation… NOW!!!

6.2 out of 7

• Breathing in a New Mentality
• A Fault Line, A Fault of Mine
• Desperate Times, Desperate Measures
• Too Bright to See Too Loud to Hear

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Oh, To Be Like the Moon!

I always find it crazy when out of the blue God just hits me with a seemingly magical epiphany. No matter how many times He does this, I always am left standing before our awesome Creator, wondering where He wants me go next with my newly given knowledge.

You can probably guess that the reason why I am telling you this is because I have quite recently had one of those epiphanies. Well, yes, I did have one that shook me up pretty good.

It started when I was merely sitting in my dorm room watching Scrubs (this is a daily occurrence now). I had just got out of my last class of the day about two and a half hours ago… it is currently three-thirty. I was sitting there watching Scrubs and thinking just how awesome it is too only have to go to class for two hours and then be done for the rest of the day, when something hit me. No, it wasn’t anything that was concrete or tangible, but rather something hit my heart. It told me that I needed to read.

Read what? As the moment passed by I began to realize that this must be God telling me to read… but He wasn’t being every specific. Eventually I decided to read a daily devotional. It had a quote from Abraham Lincoln that said, “I do not boast that God is on my side. I humbly pray that I am on God’s side.”

Reading that quote quickly got my mind and my heart rolling. Almost instantly I felt the weight of my own hypocrisy. I realized that for the last several years I had merely been a hypocritical “Christian”. I was not following Christ with my actions or my thoughts. Even though I was putting on the “Christian” mask, I was by no means following the One that I called my Savior. Lukewarm is not a very good place to be if you know what Christ said about those who are lukewarm.

Even though the whole process of going from watching Scrubs to beginning to pray was only slightly longer than it took for me to pull up that daily devotional on my computer, I spent several moments in prayer with my God. I was simply praying about everything: telling Him how sorry I was, asking for His help and guidance so that I may longer be bound my hypocrisy, etc. But one thing that came to me during my prayers was the idea of imitating Christ. Paul tells us in Ephesians that we are to be imitators of Christ, but I felt like God was putting a prayer in my heart. So I started praying, “God make me like the moon.”

That phrase may seem a bit strange to you, but first let me explain myself. As we all know the sun is the brightest celestial body in the sky during the day. It is so bright that we are not able to see the other stars in the sky while the sun is above us. During the day the sun is the only light that we can see.

But during the nighttime, the sun is no longer above our heads. Instead of the sun’s light, the night sky is lit by the faint light of billions of other stars. In fact the brightest object in the night sky is not even a star but the moon. But there is something strange about the moon’s light in comparison to the light of the countless stars that fill the sky: the moon doesn’t produce its own light. No, the moon’s light, the brightest light in the night sky, is merely a reflection of the sun’s light. The moon acts like a mirror for the sun’s light, but the moon is not the sun and therefore is not able to be nearly as bright as the sun. In fact the moon’s light doesn’t come close to the full light of the sun. But it is still the brightest in the night sky because of the light from the sun.

By now I imagine that you probably know where I am going to go with this analogy. Christ is like the sun. When He is around His light is so glorious that the other lights, the other stars, are no longer seen. But Christ left this world, and though he will come again, we are currently living in a nighttime world. Christ told us to be the light of the world, but how can we be the light of a dying world when we, ourselves, are a part of that world? Christ will make us like the moon. Just as the moon is the brightest in the sky because it is reflecting the light of the sun, so too are we to be the light of the world by becoming reflections of the Son. If we will let Christ shine through us then we will also shine with His light. We will light the night with Christ’s light until the day comes when Christ returns.

It is amazing what a little time with the King can do. I pray and hope that Christians will strive to be like Christ, for that is the only way that we will be able to earn our name. My hope is that I will continue to follow Christ as He leads me away from my hypocrisy and closer to Him.



Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children. Ephesians 5:1