Category Archives: Reviews

An Interview with Ralph Hinkley Syndrome

Ralph Hinkley Syndrome, that’s an interesting name for a band. Tell us a little about who you are and the story behind the name.

Yes, thank you for noticing. Wyman and I (Jason) have known each other since “Webster” started airing on TV. Wyman was born into a musical family and his family had a band that was pretty popular in the late 70s (with rockin white-people afros) which explains his heightened musical prowess. Wyman can play pretty much any traditional instrument quite well. As for me, I started playing piano as a kid and was actually doing recitals and reading music until sadly I lost interest. Now, I’m kinda Eddie Van Halen. I don’t really read music, but play entirely by feel. So, it wasn’t until I saw Wyman in fifth grade at the school talent show singing the immortal chorus, “Who ya gonna call…Ghostbusters!”, that I was inspired to play guitar. He actually taught me my first licks on guitar in seventh grade.

Now, as for the unique band name: Wyman and I have played in numerous musical projects together but went our separate ways musically for a number of years. After unearthing some early recordings of a really cool song we started working on many years before, it inspired us to come back together in early ’07 to form this music project. That song consequently ended up becoming our very first track “Lombard Street” and ended up going six weeks in a row to win the New Release Tuesday (NRT) contest.

As far as the name of the project goes. I was sitting at my workstation one day banging my head against the monitor thinking there must be a band name out there for us in the vast sea of musical groups, and I bet it’s right in front of me. I then picked my head up, looked at my desktop wallpaper and there it was. A “Greatest American Hero” wallpaper in all its diffused glory. I then started picking it apart. I thought what about the name of the guy who played him? His name is William Katt. Pretty ordinary and uninteresting right? So, I went on to to look up the character’s name and saw that it was “Ralph Hinkley”. Eureka! That was a really different and catchy name and so I dug deeper into the show storyline to try to come up with some more meaning or inspiration behind the name. I found out that the character “Ralph Hinkley” was a teacher of special needs students who wanted nothing more than to reach his students, but didn’t really know how to accomplish this. He then gets visited by aliens (friendly ones) who gave him a ridiculous costume with special powers, yet he never really learns how to use the suit because he loses the instruction manual in the desert. So, he learns how to fly, but never learns how to land and comes crashing down every time. I looked deeper into this and realized that we are all “Ralph Hinkley’s”. All of us have this incredible and life-changing instruction manual available to us, but how often do we “lose” it and keep it on the shelf to collect dust? We all have good intentions, but honestly how often do we fail and come crashing down again? The prefix was there, the story was in place, now we just needed a suffix to wrap it up. Ultimately I realized that what we all have is a “syndrome”. A condition that we are unable to help or control that we inherited from the first man Adam. Thus “Ralph Hinkley Syndrome” was born.

Your latest single, Only Then, seems to have a different flavor than some of your previous music. What inspired this more worshipful, emotive song?

We’ve all got struggles. Some are nagging and require lifelong battles to overcome. This is a song of admittance of helplessness and gratitude for the spiritual freedom that comes through believing in the sacrifice of the Savior. Not sure the feel of this theme would’ve translated quite as well if we did it in the same aggressive vane as “Hi-Fi”. And you are very correct, this vibe is definitely different than pretty much all of our other songs other than “On Fire” which has some similar characteristics. This my friend is the beauty of being an indie band. Nobody telling us what to do or who to sound like in order to sell more records. We continue to explore and thoroughly enjoy that freedom.

Is Ralph Hinkley moving in a new direction and planning to write more music along these lines or will you continue to stay true to your original, unique sounds?

We’ve always tried to write songs that go far below the surface and address issues that are truly honest and meaningful. We’re very aware that we could easily do our homework and conform our sound and image to match the popular bands and probably arrive at that place that so many bands strive to reach for years and years. However, our musical integrity and passion would get lost in the fray. Our conviction is that our time is so limited on this earth, shouldn’t we be using our gifts and talents in a manner that’s genuine and has an eternal weight attached to it? Especially with the unchurched youth who are seemingly looking around every corner for hope only to come up empty because no one has showed them the way to the only living hope, our Savior Jesus.

What’s the next step for R.H.S. and how can people get in touch with your music?

We are in the midst of remastering our songs and are planning to get our songs on iTunes by this Christmas so definitely keep an eye out there!

Other than that, we plan on continuing to write, record and share our music with the world using the Interwebs and social networks. We think this is the next big thing. We love connecting with fans and have a few ways for peeps to do that as well as listen and hopefully be blessed, encouraged and especially moved by our music.

Connect with the Ralph Hinkley Syndrome on: MySpace | Facebook | Twitter.

Make sure to listen to Ralph Hinkley Syndrome’s latest single, Only Then, right here on Rethink Radio.

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Praise Father, Son and That Other Guy

HAVE WE FORGOTTEN GOD?
A BOOK REVIEW:
FORGOTTEN GOD by FRANCIS CHAN

Calling the Holy Spirit “Forgotten God” may be a bit of an overstatement. Or perhaps it is an understatement. Some Christians seem to show little evidence that they have any theology of the Spirit while others seem to emphasize the Spirit at the expense of other biblical doctrine. What seems clear is that few Christians have it quite right. In this new book Francis Chan says, “From my perspective, the Holy Spirit is tragically neglected and, for all practical purposes, forgotten. While no evangelical would deny His existence, I’m willing to bet there are millions of churchgoers across America who cannot confidently say they have experienced His presence or action in their lives over the past year. And many of them do not believe they can.” With the entertainment (or perhaps “edutainment”) model of church so prevalent today, churches have become filled with self-focused consumers instead of Spirit-filled believers. Chan asks this provocative question: “What if you grew up on a desert island with nothing but the Bible to read?” If you had nothing but Scripture to guide you, would your understanding of the Holy Spirit be far different from what it is today? It is probably worth thinking about. Says Chan, “If I were Satan and my ultimate goal was to thwart God’s kingdom and purposes, one of my main strategies would be to get churchgoers to ignore the Holy Spirit.”

It is easy to fake the presence of the Spirit, isn’t it? “Let’s be honest: If you combine a charismatic speaker, a talented worship band, and some hip, creative events, people will attend your church. Yet this does not mean that the Holy Spirit of God is actively working and moving in the lives of the people who are coming.” It is possible for a church to be fun and vibrant and exciting even while utterly ignoring the Holy Spirit—even while outright grieving the Holy Spirit. Such churches may say much about Jesus but little about the Spirit. Yet how then do we reconcile Jesus’ words that it is better for us if we have the Spirit than if we have the Son? Chan says, “I think most of us would…choose a physical Jesus over an invisible Spirit. But what do we do with the fact that Jesus says it is better for His followers to have the Holy Spirit?” Do we believe Him? If so, do our lives reflect that belief?”

Alternating teaching with stories and testimonies, Chan seeks to reverse this neglect of the Spirit. Essentially he provides a brief and basic theology of the Spirit (even titling one chapter “Theology of the Holy Spirit 101”) and shows how the Spirit can and should operate in the life of the believer. It is an eminently quotable book, offering scores of statements that are worth highlighting and worth pondering in the days and weeks to come. Some reading this review will want to know his position on the continuation of the miraculous spiritual gifts. I would say his is “guarded, hesitant continuationism,” though this comes from reading between the lines more than any bold statements to that effect.

If the book has a weakness I would say it is in Chan’s unwillingness to draw distinctions and to clearly delineate opposing doctrine. It is all very well to indicate that a church may not quite fit within one mold or another, but sooner or later we do need to make distinctions. Either the Spirit speaks through audible voices or he does not; either words of knowledge exist today or they do not. We cannot have it both ways and the distinction can cut right to the heart of a church’s beliefs. I realize that labels can be as unhelpful as they are helpful, but at some point we do need to make distinctions. I will grant that this may not be the role or purpose of Forgotten God but it is still possible that the book can confuse the reader exactly because of this lack of precision.

Nevertheless, for those who have thought little about the person and role of the Holy Spirit, Forgotten God may be just the thing to get them thinking. For those who have not thought about the Spirit for a long time, this may serve as a good wake-up call. It is far from a full-orbed or exhaustive treatment, but neither is that its purpose. Chan sets out to get the reader thinking “that by keeping in step with the Spirit, we might regularly fellowship over what He’s doing rather than what He did months or years ago.” It’s about living a life dependent on and surrendered to the Spirit, about seeking how we can live faithfully here and now. And this he accomplishes well.

Chan’s previous book Crazy Love has sold over a quarter million copies and continues to fly off bookstore shelves. Forgotten God shares a message that is nearly as urgent and undoubtedly even more important. It is a fitting sequel that bears many resemblances to the book it follows. After all, how can we show true love if not through the Holy Spirit? There are many people sharing similar messages today, but few doing so to Chan’s audience which is largely young and in many cases not very well trained in the teachings of Scripture. I have little doubt that God will use this to shake them up in all the right ways.

timchallies Tim Challies, a self-employed web designer, is a pioneer in the Christian blogosphere, having one of the most widely read and recognized Christian blogs. He is also editor of Discerning Reader, a site dedicated to offering thoughtful reviews of books that are of interest to Christians.

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Scouting the Divine: An Interview with Margaret Feinberg

Recently we had a conversation with Margaret Feinberg, author of the new book, Scouting the Divine. We asked her questions about her pilgrimage across the US, caring for a flock of sheep, and Wal-Mart. And this is what she had to say…

Have we heard incorrectly or did you recently come to Oregon, our neck of the woods (or should we say “God’s country”), to spent time with sheep?

I love me some Oregon. Seriously, I HEART the Pacific Northwest. After spending five years living in Alaska, it’s hard not to fall in love with your region of the country. Almost a decade ago, I met a woman from outside of Portland who took care of sheep. I never forgot our meeting all the rich spiritual insights that emerged from her simply talking about caring for a flock. Last spring, I tracked her down, cold called her, reintroduced myself, and garnered an invitation to spend time in her home and among her sheep. The experience was unforgettable.

Why ‘Scouting the Divine?’ Where did this concept come from?

I’ve become increasingly aware that the agrarian world of the Bible is distant from my modern suburban lifestyle, so I decided to be intentional about closing the gap. I went on my own “stay-grimage.” or “spiritual pilgrimage” in the United States. I spent time with the shepherdess in Oregon, a farmer in Nebraska, a beekeeper in Colorado, and a vinter in Napa Valley. With each person, I opened the scripture and asked, “How do you read this—not as a theologian—but in light of what you do everyday?” Their answers changed the way I read scripture forever.

Can you spend a minute and tell one of the truths that impacted you personally while writing Scouting the Divine?

There were so many spiritual discoveries. One I’ve been gnawing on lately came from my time with the beekeeper. I asked him why he thought the Promised Land was described as a land overflowing with milk and honey. The land could have been described as anything—the land of ginormous pomegranates or luscious olive oil. Instead, God chose to make the land famous for overflowing with milk and honey. When I asked the beekeeper, he noted that a land that overflows with honey means that everything is working in its proper order. The winter snows don’t melt too late. The summer heat isn’t overwhelming. The rain falls at its appointed time. The first freeze doesn’t arrive too early. If any of these factors are out of alignment then the grasses and flowers can’t bloom to their full potential and the bees can’t produce honey in abundance. That means that one of the defining characteristics of the Promised Land is that everything works in it’s proper order. I want to enter that Promised Land in my own life.–where I’m living in the season of life God has placed me in to my full potential.

On a side note, we’ve always been impressed – from following you on Twitter and reading your blog – that, despite the busyness of ministry, you prove to remain passionate about your relationship with Jesus. What are some practical things that you do to keep that passion fresh?

Even in the midst of a busy schedule, I try to take care of myself. This may sound so unspiritual, but I try to make sure I’m getting enough sleep. I carve out mornings when I allow my body to drink in as much sleep as it needs. Why? When I’m well-rested, I’m less like to make foolish decisions that lead me into sin and it’s easier to connect to God and respond to His leadings and nudging. I have a hunch the people of God would be far more effective if we were well-rested. In addition, I love to read what I call Bible nerd books. I read commentaries, studies on ancient Israel and obscure books that really feed my spirit and soul. And Leif and I read a Walter Bruegermann prayer aloud together. It’s one of the sweetest moments of our day.

When does Scouting the Divine release and how can people purchase it?

Scouting the Divine is available October 1 and the accompanying six-week DVD study releases from Lifeway in January 2010. You can check it out on amazon.com, borders.com, or my own site—which is launching all-new in October!–www.margaretfeinberg.com. For all you Facebookers, I’m on as Margaret Feinberg and for all you twitters, you can find me @mafeinberg.

Next time you’re in Oregon herding sheep, you’ll have to stop by and say hi.

Would love to! I’ll be speaking at Living Hope Church in Vancouver, Washington, and George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon, in November.

BONUS: When I think of Wal-Mart, I think of … the hidden story of Sam Walton’s heart for caring for the poor that isn’t heard or heralded oenough. I just got back from Bentonville, Arkansas, home of Wal-mart, and discovered countless stories of outrageously generous and good things being done by this shopping behemoth. You’d be surprised at just how much!

007A popular speaker at churches and leading conferences such as Fusion, Catalyst, and LeadNow, Margaret Feinberg (www.margaretfeinberg.com) invites people to discover the relevance of God and His Word in a modern world. Audiences love her ability to connect the practical with the spiritual. Recently named by Charisma magazine as one of the “30 Emerging Voices” who will help lead the church in the next decade, she has written more than a dozen books including the critically-acclaimed The Organic God and the Sacred Echo (Zondervan). People of all ages connect with her relational teaching style. Margaret currently lives in Morrison, Colorado, with her 6′8″ husband, Leif. When she’s not writing or traveling, she enjoys anything outdoors, lots of laughter, and their super-pup, Hershey. But she says some of her best moments are spent communicating with her readers. So go ahead, become her friend on Facebook, or tag her on Twitter at @mafeinberg.

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Word of Mouth Bistro

wordofmouth The little house on 17th just off State Street in northeast Salem has seen more lives than a cat. I think it previously has been a musical instrument store and at least three different cafes. Set in a kind of frumpy, uptownish neighborhood that can’t quite decide what it wants to be, the house always seemed to be a happening just waiting to happen. My recent visit to Word of Mouth, the funky little bistro currently resident in the place, has given me hope that the house, like the Tin Man, has finally gotten its long-awaited heart.

Inside, the house is bright and clean. The small tables (no parties of 8 here) are scattered through several “rooms,” but they are open to each other. This gives the place a casual intimacy, which is the hallmark of a good neighborhood bistro, without making you feel claustrophobic. Our server was friendly and attentive. I felt like I’d discovered a well-kept secret, tucked off the beaten path. In a way, I had.

My wife had visited before me and, knowing my love for a certain dessert, recommended the Crème Brulee French Toast. Dutifully (yeah, right) I ordered it. It came quickly and hot. One bite was all I needed to know that his place was for real. Good French toast—I mean really good French toast—is a rarity, and this item, if it were the only thing on the menu, would make Word of Mouth a culinary destination.

But a look at the menu reveals that these people are serious about what they do. From the breakfast offerings to the lunch and dinner choices it’s clear that this little bistro is aiming for something special. As a resident of Salem for 18 years, I’ve long lamented the dearth of unique and fun places to eat. Word of Mouth may give some of us a reason not to drive to Portland.

By the time I left, the place was packed and folks were sitting in the porch area waiting for a table. Good sign, I thought. As I stepped out into the fresh morning, I felt that mild “decadent” sensation that comes only after an enjoyable dining experience. It was a pleasant guilt, and I will no doubt return to Word of Mouth for another delightful transgression.

Visit their website for hours and location.

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Review: Fiction Family

In a scene dominated by the gentle, hypersensitive sounds of Sufjan Stevens, The Welcome Wagon and Fleet Foxes, Jon Foreman and Sean Watkins finally inject some manliness back into the acoustic guitar.

Fiction Family, the culmination of two of our generation’s most prolific and respected songwriters, debuts as a masterful collection of tales about murder, adventure, lost love, and war that highlight each contributor’s strengths and personalities while managing to defy perceived expectations.

There’s a beautiful carelessness to this project—a work birthed out of rest, friendship, and unabashed innovation. With no immediate deadlines, rules, or formats to follow, Foreman and Watkins embark on a musical journey of the purist, most unadulterated kind. The album keeps one foot in the folk door (a familiar home for both artists) while audaciously messing with everything from techno beats to ’60s pop choirs to fisher price instruments. While the acoustic guitar remains fixed in the foreground, a symphonic cast of unlikely characters join the conversation. Chamber stings, tympanis, accordions and electric fuzz tones somehow manage to play nicely together. A few of the most arresting tracks replace traditional bass lines with resonate piano timbres, dark pounding drones that duel eloquently against intricate finger-picking patterns.

There’s an idea that the farther one departs from the traditional pop format, the less tangible their work becomes to the average listener. Not so with Fiction Family. Wildly inventive and spontaneous (track two entitled “Out of Order” sounds exactly how it reads) the work stands in victorious defiance against a crumbling conventional music industry. Hooks and phrases linger long after their first introduction, and are sure to induce an involuntary foot-tapping episode or two.

It’s the stories, however, that give the project a sense of timelessness. In the spirit of his Season EPs, Foreman channels cultural staples like Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, even various Motown voices, conveying raw acoustic narratives like “Betrayal” and “War in My Blood” that read straight out of a great American novel. Watkins attaches his expertise for the hauntingly sorrowful love song that, in his case, always seems to relay more familiar truth than angsty longing. “Elements Combined” sketches the complexities of a woman, an intoxicating mixture of “earth, air, fire, and wine.”

But it’s not all love and war for the Family. Both Watkins and Foreman wrestle with the spiritual complexities of human nature. On “Closer Than You Think” the two critique the widely held notion of heaven as a distant and out of reach destination and suggest it may be “right under your feet.” In traditional Foreman lyrical style, “Prove Me Wrong” is laden with tender screams for affirmation and acceptance as it contemplates every man’s darkest struggles and fears through a solitary voice.

Those who have eased into a level of comfortable enjoyment of Jon Foreman’s solo projects and Watkins’ bluegrass repertoire may be caught off guard by the duo’s progressive departure from the predictable. Those looking for Switchfoot meets Nickel Creek will be disappointed. This is truly a profound exploration deep into the creative wells of two tremendously inventive and forward-thinking songwriters. Fiction Family is genius. It’s progressive without being high-brow, laid-back but fearless.

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CJ is an artist, writer, and cultural commentator with a passion for raising a new generation of innovative artists and forward thinkers.

To download a free mp3 of Fiction Family’s “When She’s Near Me” please click here.

This article was printing in the March/April issue of Rethink Monthly magazine (issue #6).

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Twilight vs. Harry Potter

It’s the series that has media blogs and entertainment websites debating, “Is ‘Twilight’ the next Harry Potter?” Hollywood.com called it, “The most epic romance since Titanic.” It’s the “pop culture phenomenon” known as “Twilight.”

The supernatural series written by Stephanie Meyer includes, “Twilight,” “New Moon,” “Eclipse,” and “Breaking Dawn,” with future books in the works. The story is written in the first person view of Bella Swan, a 17-year-old, who after her mother remarried, moved from Phoenix, Ariz. to Forks, Wash. to live with her father. Bella’s new, wet and dreary hometown located on the Olympic Peninsula is not only the place of her childhood home, but it is also the residence of an ancient family…of vampires.

Bella Swan’s first encounter with one of the beautiful bloodsuckers takes place on her very first day at Forks High School. While all the other boys drool over fresh meat, one young man seems completely turned off by Bella: Edward Cullen, who she describes as a model or a god. This intrigues her.

The Cullen family seems normal enough to Bella. That is, if five teenagers (of which two sets of the teens are dating each other) living with a couple in their early 30s is normal. But Bella is able to push past the whispers of gossip in the school hallways and the local tribal legends, and accept the Cullen family for who they really are – a covenant of the undead. Or so she finds out after Edward saves her from a near death experience involving a truck.

As the first book progresses, so does the relationship between Edward and Bella. The two fall intensely and passionately in love. Edward finds he is strong enough to put aside his desire to taste Bella’s blood (a metaphor for abstinence). The rest of the Cullen family have also given up their fleshly desires, and are able to exist peacefully in a human society because they have given up their way of life – praying on innocent humans – and instead have taken up “vegetarianism,” or feasting on the blood of animals. The Cullens also made a peace treaty with the local Quileute (Native American) tribe: as long as the Cullens maintain their vegetarian status and do not “turn” a human into one of them, they can remain in the area.

The majority of the first book, “Twilight,” is made up of the strong emotions of longing and yearning that Bella and Edward feel for each other. While many people out of high school may find the 300 plus pages of teenage romance squished in between a couple action scenes in the first book hard to swallow, this is what draws in the teens and preteens.

According to 12-year-old Morgan McMillan, “Most people think that vampires are evil and they want to kill you, but the Twilight series shows that they have a deep sensitive side to them besides just killing.”

It’s the deep sensitive side of Edward Cullen and his I-would-die-for-you attitude toward Bella that has the girls swooning and putting themselves in Bella’s skin.

“Edward is just so romantic,” said 14-year-old Janie Naylor. “I love how he would put Bella before himself and how he feels like he can’t live with out her – how he is willing to kill himself if she ever died.”

While Meyer relies heavily on the blossoming love relationship between Edward and Bella in order to develop the characters in the first book, she does add in other elements that help appeal to a broader audience.

Kim Ecker, a high school senior, said, “As soon as I read the first book, I was hooked. I love how the author combines romance and adventure.”

After hints of fantasy and action in the first book, Meyer allows the fantasy world to melt with real life. She mixes in other ancient covens, evil vampires and even werewolves. By adding to the story more of the vampire-werewolf mythology, Meyer is able to hook in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy buffs, as well as the hopeless romantics.

By the end of the third book, “Eclipse,” Meyer adds another ingredient to keep her readers interested: Jacob Black’s point of view. Jacob Black is Bella’s best friend. However, Jacob feelings for Bella intensify; creating a love triangle, in which Bella must eventually choose between Edward and Jacob. Black is a complex character. Some “Twilight” fans find it hard to decide which male character they like best.

“Choosing between Edward and Jacob is an impossible task for me. Edward is so romantic and protecting, but Jacob has the ‘fall in love with your best friend’ thing going for him that I really like a lot,” said Ecker.

However, others either love Jacob or hate him.

“I just want to say go team Edward,” McMillan said, while Naylor shows off her “Team Edward” bracelet.

Just type in “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob” into “Google” and you’ll come across pages and pages of the big debate. It’s a pop culture controversy much like the great, “Is professor Snape good or evil?” argument of the Harry Potter series.

While the “Twilight” series has generated a fan base nearly just as large as Harry Potter has, the content differs significantly. While both Meyer and J.K Rowling were able to create a story in the fantasy realm, and mold characters that readers could fall in love with, “Twilight” knocks Potter off the bookshelf in one department: its mature content.

Throughout the first three books, Edward wishes to remain abstinent. The theme of waiting until marriage is paired with the metaphor of Edward resisting Bella’s blood. Meyer’s aspiration of promoting abstinence is well intended, but perhaps was not thought out well enough.

Bella and Edward constantly find themselves in steamy-risky situations, in which temptations (and hormones) run high – situations most teens could not resist. Edward is constantly “sleeping over,” or watching Bella sleep (without Bella’s father’s approval). And during these night watches, Bella persistently pushes Edward to give in.

Ecker said, “Although their relationship is perceived to be more mature than a typical high school fling, some of the turns that Edward and Bella’s relationship takes could send some red flags to parents of young readers.”

While Ecker is old enough and mature enough in her Christian faith to point out these “red flags,” some of the younger teens and teens that do not have a Christian upbringing, may perceive these mature situations of the norm.

Fortunately, Meyer does hold Edward to his no sex before marriage standard. Unfortunately, in the forth book, “Breaking Dawn” (caution: minor spoiler), Bella marries Edward right out of high school. This young betrothal may cause some love-struck teenagers to be blinded by visions of sparkly vampires. Also Meyer does give a PG-13 rated look at the newlywed’s Honeymoon night.

“I would recommend the series to anyone over the age of 15 due to the mature content,” said Ecker. “Younger teenagers should not read this book. The relationship that Edward and Bella have could convince young readers that all relationships are that perfect, causing hurt for them in the future. Also, the mature content dealing with sex is something to look out for with younger readers.”

If, parents, you do decide to let your preteens and younger high-schoolers read this series, it is important that you discuss with your children what a true-godly relationship looks like. Also, talk with them about their desires for a career or to continue their education after high school. Getting them to think about the future may hold back any impulses they just might have to elope after graduating.

So is “Twilight” the next Harry Potter? Perhaps, if you’re counting fans and loveable characters. But, Meyer has created a series in the fantasy realm of its own. Comparing the two would be like comparing vampires to wizards.

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Shawnee Randolph is a freelance journalist who lives with her husband near Salem, Ore. She graduated in May 2008 from Corban College with a Bachelor of Science in English-Journalism. She currently works as the Office Administrator at her church. Shawnee has been working along side her husband in youth ministry for four and a half years.

This article was printing in the March/April issue of Rethink Monthly magazine (issue #6).

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Adrian Blackman "Sweet Life" CD Review

With an ease-inducing voice reminiscent of Shaday and musical stylings that reflect her Caribbean heritage, Avion Blackman’s new album Sweet Life is a breezy blend of folk, worship, World, soca, R&B and neo-soul.

Aside from her solo career, Blackman is also a member of the group Christafari. She continues to perform with the band, performing more than 100 shows in 25 countries in 2008 alone, including concerts in the USA, Iceland, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Poland, Germany, The Netherlands, England, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Spain, Antigua, Trinidad and Brazil.

Born in Trinidad, Blackman lived in luxury as a daughter of the famous calypsonian, Lord Shorty, who was the inventor of Soca (the pulse of Carnival) and Jamoo music. As a young dreadlocked child, she began singing on stage in front of crowds at 4 years old. That year, her life drastically changed when on a spiritual quest, her father transplanted his massive family to the jungle, where she would spend the next 20 years living seven rugged miles from the remote Indian village of Pirapo.

The Blackman home was a log cabin with no doors, windows, plumbing or electricity. Blackman was home-schooled and her large family (24 brothers and sisters) lived primarily off the land growing virtually everything that they ate. Their days were filled with Bible study, intense rehearsals, various tour dates and regular performances for curious visitors.

Blackman learned the art of harmony while touring and singing background for her father, who took on the name Ras Shorty I after his conversion to Christianity. At 14, she began playing bass for the family band, The Love Circle, and eventually began recording solo material of her own.

In 2003, she moved to Los Angeles and married Christafari founder and lead vocalist Mark Mohr, and subsequently became Christafari’s bassist and one of the group’s vocalists.

Avion Blackman released her debut album, Onyinye, in 2005, and the following year the project was nominated for nine Caribbean Gospel Music Marlin Awards. Blackman took the top honor, becoming the first non-Jamaican to win Album of the Year. She also won Marlin Awards for Contemporary Female Vocal Performance of the Year (“Marvelous Beauty”) and Packaging of the Year. In addition to her solo work and Christafari, Blackman has lent her voice to an assortment of songs for network television, where she can be heard regularly on popular shows such as General Hospital and One Life to Live.

On her new album, Blackman combines honest worship with island rhythms.

Some songs, like ‘Sweet Life,’ have jazz undertones, and are the perfect compliment to a Sunday afternoon drive around town.

“On ‘Sweet Life,’ I unapologetically sing about the sweetest life of all,” Blackman says. “The abundant and eternal life that is freely given to those who place their faith in Jesus Christ.”

Other songs on the album, like “It Is For Freedom,” incorporate melodious Caribbean melodies minus the steel drums. Blackman’s music introduces spiritual themes, from forgiveness to progressing in the spiritual walk, to trusting God.

For more information, visit Adrian Blackman’s web site at www.avionblackman.com.

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This article is printed in the January/February 2009 issue of RETHINK Monthly.

Lindsay Goodier is a journalist living in Houston, Texas who loves the beach, sailing and running.

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