April 2013

Bookshelf30 Apr 2013 04:33 pm

Today, I’ve got some young adult (YA) fiction (a.k.a. kid’s books) to talk about. In fact, I’ve got a swath of YA books (at least 15) to talk about, but I’m limiting this to four. First, from Tyndale is the latest episode from the Imagination Station series. Then, two comic book meets novel hybrids – one from the library and one from Tommy Nelson. And finally, Harvest House offers a Bible study for kids with a topical collection of memory verses. Okay, let’s get to the quick.

The Hunt for the Devil’s Dragon – Wayne Thomas Batson

The Imagination Station series, which falls along the lines of Magic Tree House and Secrets of Droon books, takes finds a nice balance between focusing on Bible accounts and stories of the Christian faith. This time the time-traveling cousin duo of Beth and Patrick encounter first hand the tale of Saint George and the Dragon, which has many sources and variations. Here’s how this one plays out (with minimal spoilers).

Beth feels regret for chickening out in the face of a bully picking on her friend. Mr. Whit sends her to ancient Africa with Patrick to witness the courage of Saint George, a newly converted Christian who stands up for the rights of peasants under the rule of the Roman forces. And to keep everyone’s interest throughout the story, there are dragons and other fantastical creatures. Through it all, Beth (along with Patrick and the readers) learns the intended lesson.

NOTE: I received a complimentary copy from the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an honest review. Sign up for Tyndale Rewards or the Tyndale Blog Network and learn how to get free books, too.

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MUSIC&reviews26 Apr 2013 04:42 pm

Another week has gone by and I’m sure there are a good handful of things I wanted to get done, but didn’t. Maybe you feel the same way. Maybe it will be a productive weekend. For now, (depending on how you look at it) I’ll be productive and share my thoughts on five more albums. If you’re unfamiliar with the Music of the Day format, pay attention to the next sentence. For each album, I’ll give you my thoughts in 25 words or less, two key tracks to check out, two similar artists, and a random comparison. Today, the I’ll pick from the teams in the NBA playoffs. Off we go.

Martin Smith – God’s Great Dance Floor
http://amzn.to/14Wyxoc (CD) | http://amzn.to/15XUi68 (mp3)

A voice that should sound familiar, a collection of songs that feel familiar, and a mostly cheek-to-cheek dance floor. Not delirious, but quite happy. Warriors.

DON’T MISS: Jesus of Nazareth, Fire Never Sleeps
SEE ALSO: Kristian Stanfill, Bluetree
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americanidol&MUSIC&pop culture&television25 Apr 2013 12:18 pm

So now we’re down to the final four and no one has been saved and the show may end a week early and there are rumors that I’m not the only one annoyed with Mariah and oh, what a season it has been. I think it’s safe to say we’re all happy that Lazaro isn’t singing…

Okay, I’m firing up the old AmericanIdol.com video playlist and we’re going to find out what’s what. My understanding is that the girls picked their first song and their second song (as voted on by fans like you – I didn’t vote) is a one-hit wonder. Let’s get to it.

Amber opens the night with Power of Love. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I really don’t like Celine Dion songs. Woah! Amber’s hair exploded! She starts it off with no music and does a great job, then stumbles on the chorus. There is zero connection between her and the song, but she emits a powerful vocal that will surely overcome the bored body language. Keith says it was an amazingly perfect song choice and she was confident. Nicki says she doesn’t even feel like a contestant anymore, it’s like they’re at her show. Randy says she’s came in as a baby, now she’s a pro. Mariah says she opened up the notes like hashtag POW. (Meanwhile Kobe tries not to be like hashtag PAU!).
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business&leadership&Overflow24 Apr 2013 04:40 pm

And we’re back. I was a little distracted last week and I’m still distracted, but I’m fighting through it. We’re finally at the part where Joshua leads the Israelites across the Jordan River. This is an exciting time for the budding nation and, as we discussed last time, it’s the moment God has chosen to cement Joshua’s leadership role.


As we start this passage, we find Joshua reiterating the vision and instructions for crossing the Jordan. He reminds the Israelites of the promise that has kept them going all this time: God will give us the Promised Land. That’s their vision, their goal. He reminds them of their instructions: Follow the Ark of the Covenant, follow God. He explains how it’s going to happen: Once the priests wade into the water, the river will stop flowing and a path will appear.

It almost seems redundant and certainly feels as though it’s been distilled into a handy little summary. But this is exactly what the Israelites needed. This is what we all need from time to time. Little reminders of where we are, why we’re here, and what’s to be expected. This is a rally cry that will unite the nation in either skepticism or hope. And either way, it won’t be long before the truth is revealed.
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MUSIC&reviews19 Apr 2013 04:30 pm

It’s been a stressful and serious week for many, so, hopefully a glance at some new music will be a refreshing break from the immediate reality. This week didn’t yield too many releases, but did provide us with The Afters. Iron & Wine also released a pretty exquisite album this week, but I’m not including that here. Sorry. Anyway, for the remaining four spots, I dug into the past month or so and found some nice albums to peek at. Before all that, however, here’s a reminder of how this works. In 25 words or less, I’ll summarize my thoughts on the album. You also get 2 songs to key in on, 2 alternate artists to investigate, and a random comparison (today, it’s from the top 100 longest-running Broadway shows). Got it? Okay, let’s get to it.

The Afters – Life Is Beautiful
http://amzn.to/17LUmFF (CD) | http://amzn.to/17LUqFj (mp3)

Hard not to like these guys. The album will put a smile on your face with whimsical melodies and palatable lyrics. Solid return. The Wiz.

DON’T MISS: Broken Hallelujah, What We’re Here For
SEE ALSO: Hawk Nelson, Sanctus Real
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americanidol&MUSIC&pop culture&television18 Apr 2013 12:32 pm

So, pretend we remove all the boys from the competition (oh, we did that) and adjust my original predictions of when the contestants will each get voted off. We’re left with Janelle, then Candice, Kree, then Angie, leaving Amber as the winner. I still think that’s how it will play out. Anyway, we’re back with a top five that is an all girls club and they each perform twice and quite possibly, whoever loses will still stay and we’ll have an Idol deja vu next week. Again, for expediency and convenience, I’m using the AmericanIdol.com video player to watch the performances. As always, I’ll promise to try and keep it short, but we know how that works out. Off we go.

Candice kicks things off with the Paula Abdul classic, Straight Up. It’s a swankified version, which works out really well for her because she can air it out and let her voice go crazy. Overall, solid performance, but a sleepy arrangement that plays better in the background. Keith says it was a great version of a song he never thought was great. Nicki congratulates her for being the boss and the song has always been great. Randy thought the arrangement was cool and current. Mariah says the song was a massive hit and putting that Candice on it was A-mazing.
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MUSIC&reviews12 Apr 2013 04:52 pm

Another week of music to explore and I’ve gone country. Since it is one of the biggest and most talked about releases of the week, I’d feel remiss if I didn’t include Brad Paisley’s new album in this edition. But that’s it, no more country after that… maybe. Anyway, if you’re new or if you’ve forgotten, here’s how it works. I pick five albums from this week’s release list (or thereabouts as necessary). Each album gets a summary of 25 words or less, two songs that stand out, two artists that you might consider exploring further if you enjoyed the album, and one random comparison. This week, for the comparison, I went with baseball team names and I don’t think it really worked out that well, but it’s Spring and the season is underway so I’m sticking with it. Okay, let’s get to it.

Josh Wilson – Carry Me
http://amzn.to/1115REh (CD) | http://amzn.to/153QU9u (mp3)

Pop music brilliance. A well-crafted collection of endearing tunes that will make you smile, sing along, whistle, and most certainly tap your foot. White Sox.

DON’T MISS: Pushing Back the Dark, Let There Be Light
SEE ALSO: Matthew West, Scott Krippayne
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americanidol&MUSIC&pop culture&television11 Apr 2013 04:25 pm

So, if the judges and producers aren’t actively trying to force a female winner on us, they certainly aren’t actively preventing any other outcome. Can’t say that I blame them. The last five winners have been “a dude with a guitar.” Three of those winners aren’t even remotely memorable and three of them haven’t even broken 1 million cumulative album sales (though Phillip Phillips will, in all likelihood). Why not load the competition up with talented girls and get the guys out of the way.

If they had any desire to see a guy win this season, they would’ve saved the best guy vocalist (Curtis) in week one or the best guy contender (Burnell) last week. Instead we’re stuck with Lazaro as the last man standing. Lazaro, who shouldn’t have made the top ten and wouldn’t have were it not for his background story. Anyway, each contestant performs twice, so this will be a long post. Off we go.


Angie opens the show with embarrassing YouTube videos and a Dionne Warwick song, Anyone Who Had a Heart. Hopefully, the producers aren’t out to get her by sticking her in the first spot. So this is a ballad, but she does a really nice job with it. She has a great tonal quality to her voice – it pierces the notes and holds the listener’s attention. Not much energy, though. Keith warns her not to rely solely on her voice, but to show more passion. Nicki says it felt a little old fashioned. Randy kind of agrees behind his Wreck-it Ralph glamour brooch. Mariah tries to put things in her own words and points out the perfect (to the “t”) pronunciation.
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business&leadership&Overflow10 Apr 2013 04:40 pm

My apologies for missing/skipping last week. Sometimes the struggle prevails. On to today…


Last time, we talked about the distance between the Israelites and the Ark of the Covenant as they prepared to cross the Jordan River. It provides a perspective to help the Israelites see the bigger picture of what’s going on and it served as a reminder that they were following God. In fact, they had been following God for the entire time they wandered the desert – even when it seemed as though they weren’t being led anywhere.

The truth is, we’re always being led, a plan is always being executed – even when we’re stuck in the desert. The desert is where God puts us until we’re ready for the plan He’s constructing for us. And while we’re there, we have a job to do. Our job is to prepare. Get ready. Or, as Joshua says here, “Sanctify” ourselves.

Sanctification is a setting apart. There’s a spiritual aspect to this. It’s not just doing your push-ups and stretching to prepare for the journey. It’s a serious soul search. It’s a matter of cleaning our hearts and minds and dedicating our very lives to the will of God. It’s a big deal. But it’s a small price to pay.
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Bookshelf09 Apr 2013 04:34 pm

I’ve mentioned in the past that I hadn’t read any of Joel’s fictional works, despite reviewing a few of his non-fiction books. Well, no more. I received his latest release, DAMASCUS COUNTDOWN, for review a while back and could hardly wait to dig in. Of course, there’s always a catch. It’s the third book of a trilogy. (I can’t tell you how often this happens to me). The choice, then, is whether to blindly start reading the finale before understanding all that led up to it or to start at the beginning. And since book one, THE TWELFTH IMAM, was free on Amazon (temporarily) and book two, THE TEHRAN INITIATIVE was in the library, the choice was a little easier – it was just a bigger commitment. One that I don’t regret making.

The Twelfth Imam – Joel C Rosenberg

The story begins here. The Twelfth Imam opens during a time of unrest in 1979 Iran, where a friendship is forged between two families – the Harpers and the Shirazis. After a secret CIA operation (based on the Argo account) frees both young couples to Canada and later America, the two families maintain a relationship as they grow through the years. Until a fateful September 11th, when a terrorist attack on America claims the life of Mrs. Harper and driving a rift between the two families.

The main story centers on the youngest Shirazi son, David, as he enters the CIA with a personal vendetta to hunt down Osama Bin Laden. David experiences much success early on in his career, but he’s a little antsy because his assignments seem less than fulfilling. He wants to be used more effectively. And that’s when things take a turn. David is called in and briefed on a new assignment. At the same time, David receives a letter from Marseille Harper, who shares a special history with David.
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