Sunday, September 15, 2013

The season of Sleeping At Last

This past week has been beautiful.  I can't remember better weather for a whole week like this.  I think that for 3 days there, there literally wasn't a cloud in the sky.  Unbelievable.  What a nice week in Alberta.

Today was a nice day too, but the Autumn season has it's way of crawling in.  On the drive home we could see the colours on the trees beginning to fade.  On the edge of the road lay huddles of leaves, swishing and swaying.  The early birds.  Their friends will join them soon.

I love the changing of the seasons.  Alberta is a great place to be for all 4 of them.  I splashed in the water with my family on the Pembina river today, and I know that I could be shovelling a pile of snow in a week or two.  Come what may.

Like a lot of people, I look at my life as a series of seasons.  We just got through an amazing one that lasted 7 years in China.  Looking back, it all seems like it never happened.  It's a blur in my mind that comes into focus from time to time.  We enjoyed our time there, but I would say that we left at just the right time.  The leaves were falling and we knew that it was time to change seasons.

In that time, which spans well back into early 2012 up until this very evening, I have had the pleasure of enjoying some great "transition music".  The soundtrack of this season of Brett has been the music of Sleeping At Last.

Sleeping At Last is Ryan O'Neal.  He writes beautiful music and then he sings it and I listen to it.  That's how it works.

The man is a creative that seems to do things his own way for the sake of creating beauty.  In the past has has released a ton of music that is available here.  A few years ago he released 3 new songs every month for the entire year.  It is called Yearbook.  Get it.  Get it now!

This year his project is called Atlas.  He's been periodically been releasing EPs since January.  Once again, go to his site and check it out.  You sign up for the music, he makes it,  then he sends it to you.  It's a great deal considering the large amount of insane music you are getting.

The other day, when Ryan's Space1 was released, I realized that I have been listening to his stuff almost every time I listen to music, and that's been going on since we arrived back in Canada in November after moving back from China.

Barbara's dad was dying of cancer.  It was nearing the Christmas season and I listened to the song Snow over and over again when no one was looking.  Some people get annoyed when you listen to the same song over and over again.  Ron passed away just before Christmas and that song will always remind me of him.

And I would listen to the song Emphasis to make me feel sad.  It was a sad time and I wanted to feel sad.  This song helped me get there.  Sometimes feeling sad is the thing you need to feel.  I am thankful for it.

The words.  The words of his songs are fresh and pure.  They catch you in your current state and stop you for a bit.

Even after everything we've seen, we've barely caught a glimpse of what it means.  In the architecture of the soul, the universe began with our eyes closed.

We live and we die, like fireworks we pull apart the dark.  Compete against the stars with all of our hearts.  'Til our temporary brilliance turns to ash, we pull apart the dark while we can.

With golden strings our universe was clothed with light.  Pulling at the seams, our once barren world now brims with life.

I guess space and time, takes violent things, angry things and makes them kind.

The sweetest thing I ever heard is that I don't have to have the answers, just a little light to call my own.  Though it pales in comparison to the overarching shadows, a speak of light can reignite the sun and swallow darkness whole.

With all of tough things the last year has scarred us with, there is a lot of hope in it all as well.  I am thankful for these songs and the words that help bring healing and clarity to the fuzz and noise.  I recommend that many, many people should go out and get this music.  Put your headphones on and take it in.  It's good for broken hearts, hearts moving into new seasons and ones that are trying to make sense of the old.

Listen to the Christmas album in December and every other month for that matter.

Let's face it, summer is over.  Sweep it away and move into Autumn with hope, patience, love, and all of that good stuff.  Oh!  And go get some Sleeping at Last  to help you through.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

And God Said, "Billy" a review of Frank Schaeffer's new novel

Though I am usually a slower reader, I quickly flew through this book in less than a week. The pace of Billy's journey through life kept me glued to my tiny iPhone screen whenever I had the chance.

I would say that there are a lot of funny moments. I did not expect this book to be as funny as it was, but I noticed that I laughed aloud quite a few times, often stopping to give my wife an explanation for my outburst. Though I would usually fail with my explanation and end up just wanting to say, "You'll just have to read it yourself".

Billy goes through quite a bit. I would say that Frank Schaeffer does a great job of giving the reader a relatable character, even though there isn't always a lot to relate to, if that makes sense.  To me, is is just very, very familiar.

In fact, I think that there is a little bit of Billy in everyone, and I saw myself more than a few times in this book. As time went on, and as Billy's made up structures of his relationship with God began to crumble, I started to see a real, genuine attempt at making a connection. Billy was mad at God, especially at the times when he wasn't sure if he was even there. He struggled to build up a new system that would make him feel secure, which didn't work either. Challenged by numerous obstacles, Billy's faith churned and boiled over again and again. He became unsettled and it really bothered him. The voices in his head didn't make sense anymore.

In the film production (which itself was full of hilarious characters I hope to see on film some day), Billy continued to struggle with survival. Determined to succeed, Billy pressed forward and was eventually freed from his "Calling" by the whole situation with Vandermeer and the Monk.  

I must say that I loved the Vandermeer character.  Very interesting, intense, and rich character.  Wow!

Billy found healing in the monastery. His character grew throughout the book, and the monks helped give him peace in his new self. His trials exposed his seemingly solid rock faith for what it really was; something like a habit of religion. The monks spoke into his life through stories, and telling Billy of the traditions of their way.  It's refreshing to read through this time of healing for Billy.  Through his time there, Billy became a real person.

Anyways, not much of a reviewer, but I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the humour of intense fundamental evangelicalism.  At times, it really needs to be laughed at.  I laughed a lot in this book. 

I also teared up at one point, from the story of the two boys bullying the other boy in school. The Headmaster of the school is such a great model of love. Very touching.

A great read. Read it and tell me what you think.

Monday, September 9, 2013

An Education

This week, interesting comments from Barbara.

Barbara is currently studying hard to achieve her diploma in early childhood development.  At the same time, she is beginning another year of teaching a preschool class.  After a year of running a Kindergarten in China, we came back to Canada and she is at it again, this time with Canadian children and no language barriers to jump.

Barbara challenged the first year of her diploma by paying for and writing a pretty intense test.  She bought the books and studied them for months and then took the test in July.  In the end, she got a pretty decent mark that allowed her to skip a bunch of courses, thus saving her time and us money.

Though Barbara couldn't help but feel a little off about the whole process.  She felt that she would have had a better grade on the multiple choice test if it wasn't for all of the sneaky wording in the questions. It seems that the test was purposely trying to trick her into picking the wrong answer.  So she left feeling confused and uncertain and in the end and it was not the score that she had hoped for (though it was a very good score).

Maybe this isn't a surprise for you college people.  Perhaps it's just the way things work.  For us, we've been away from school for quite some time and it seemed odd (and frustrating) to us that this school would use the test as a money grab.  I mean, the lower her mark is, the more courses she will have to pay for, so I guess good for them for finding a way to make some cash.

And I don't mean to brag too much here, but when it comes to teaching children, Barbara knows her stuff.  I would say that she is properly equipped to teach in a Kindergarten right now.  The problem is that the degrees and the diplomas are what people see.  They are the hoops that Barbara must jump through.  She will continue to go through the motions, but I just thought it worth pointing out the fact that there is a dollar to be made in every area.  People want to teach you, but they need to do it their way so that you pay enough money to them to make it worth their while to teach you.  If Barbara would have aced the test (She got a solid B, which isn't bad at all) then they would miss out on all of the fees she would have not had to pay for the courses she had already challenged and passed.  Tricky little system.

The other interesting note is that Barbara is learning about new systems of teaching kids.  The systems are designed to help kids learn and grow through playing, interacting with their classmates, isolating and encouraging growth in their specific abilities, and basically staying active and involved in the class.  They are trying to move away from the traditional way of educating kids, like when kids have to sit all day long in their desks and then fill out the answers in their books.  So logically, one could say that the system is trying new things because the old ways just aren't good enough anymore.

The ironic thing in all of this, as Barbara pointed out, is that they are using the old, traditional system to teach her the ways of the new system.  She sits and reads and then fills out her books. It's funny that they are teaching her new ways of learning through the old method.  I guess these things take time. It's a system and systems are called systems for a reason.

This all reminded me that it takes time for change.  Systems, and people for that matter, are pretty stubborn things.  It takes patience to mould and make them into something new.  I would say that there are a lot of systems in the world that are in need of reformation.  In fact, I think that it would be a good thing for everyone to seek out a system, something that needs "a new paint job" so to speak, and give some effort into help shaping it into something new.