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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