Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Quick thoughts on "The Adjustment Bureau"

I watched this in a Moscow park with my bro and sistah. We laughed...a lot. But the movie didn't make it. 

I just simply had to say something about the dialogue between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. It was quick, funny and spontaneous, while remaining believable. 

Unfortunately the movie deserves it's PG-13 rating all the way...and David (Matt Damon) and Elise's (Emily Blunt) relationship lacks some virtue and chaste qualities. :-/ Really too bad, because their romance in other ways is both refreshing and interesting.

Guys could take a good lesson from this. All girls really want is to be irrationally pursued. A guy who's decisive and proactive. The more streets the guy run down with a white shirt and rolled up sleeves, the more points he gets. 

Matt Damon pursues his bride with all he's got and he's willing to sacrifice everything in his life, including being with Elise, for her own good. though this is sweet, it's a dumb move. I don't know about guys, but girls (at least any I've ever been around) would 100% rather have happiness (and an awesome fellow) than a disturbing dance career. ;-)

The other potential that fell flat in the movie was the whole chairman/angel/destiny deal. Some of the allegory was intriguing and fit, but it ultimately flopped. Besides the hats and occasional painful dorkiness, the conclusion seemed like an easy way out. The Chairman seemed to be both God and the villain, and was either purposefully befuddling his "agents" or a little indecisive himself.

Freewill was too big and complicated of a topic to tackle with coffee spills, headgear, doors, and George Nofli.

World Magazine gave a good and thought provoking review on this movie when it was in theaters. I disagree with some of their estimation of the romance, because I really think the characters were drawn well...their actions fit. Maybe I'm just young and immature, but the dialogue really was an interesting study.

If I had to rate the movie, I'd probably give it a five...mostly for the dialogue and generally "colorfulness" of the filming, along with the good acting of the two star characters. All other aspects, acting and otherwise, mostly deserve derogatory attention. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Lost in a Mountain of Books

Strahov Theological Hall - Original Baroque Cabinet
(What my room does not look like.)

I've been a bit more erratic than usual, so here's a variety of excuses.

A long time ago I made a pact with myself that I would review in some manner every book I read. This accomplishes several things.
1) I'm forced to think about what I've read and come to some sort of conclusion.
2) I don't waste my time on books I don't think are worth reviewing.
3) I have a good catalog of my book list, changing taste, and hopefully maturing opinions.
4) I get to bore all my blog readers to death.

Life has made reviews difficult lately, so I have a monstrous stack lined behind my computer waiting for review. The following days (perhaps weeks) will include some tedious bookishness, but I also want to talk about seeing Les Miserables (swoon), various Shakespeare plays, multiple movies, and something squibish on our trip to California.

Because of business with other writing projects, don't hold your breath for any original posts (not that you would). I'm going to try and post twice a week...possibly more or less depending on what I've been reading or watching lately.

So if there is a flurry of activity and it all seems a bit dull it's because I'm trying to fulfill my pact and keep up with myself. I've had doubts about continuing this blog. Its continued existence hinges on the personal benefit I get from having to think through things like book reviews.

Yesterday I decided to reorganize the various shelves of books that dominate our room. Volumes from Borders' sales were still sitting around homeless. Carrying around stacks of books made me giddy and I reached for a pen and paper to create a current book list. I finished with 150 titles. Yeah...there might be a lot of book reviews in the future.

Somehow, no matter how I arrange my author, subject, title, height, or color, there's still not enough shelves.

Other recent activities include reorganizing my life and priorities, involving a great deal of painful decisions. making lengthy lists, schedules, and a shiny new budget. How am I possibly going to fit in all those books? I have a book to get to the publisher! And when is my story going to get done anyway? And the Romeo/Juliet/Hamlet screenplay is sad and lonely, scrawled in a chiastic structure in the closet.

In some ways it feels like summer hasn't begun, but so much has happened since winter it can't possibly be anything but the end of summer. Next week is September. Take a deep breath. Life will go on...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wise Words - Dr. Peter Leithart

Wise Words: Family Stories that bring the Proverbs to Life
by Peter Leithart

Canon Press (2003)

Rating: 8
Readability: 9
Impact: Very interesting look into this sort of writing...

Read it Again: Already have. :-)
Recommend It: Of course.

What to Expect

Simple stories that are grounded in a specific Proverb but build off much more Biblical symbolism and typology. Unpretentious. Good for all ages.

My Squib

This is, of course, a very different sort of read from Dr. Leithart, but still holds all the thought and honesty of his other books. He opens with a quote I am completely in love with--

"Stand fast! And keep your childishness.
Read all the pendant's creeds and strictures,
But don't believe in anything
That can't be told in colored pictures."
~G. K. Chesterton

Dr. Leithart holds true to this principle and does so beautifully in Wise Words.
I rationed this book because I didn't want it to be over. The stories are short, simple, playful, serious, and imperfect, but they will continue to roll around and grow in your noggin if you let them in.

From the Book

I had many favorites but "Ivy and the Prince" was near the top. The allegory aspect may or may not have made me bawl like a baby. :-P Quotes out of context might sound a bit strange, but this sentence was beautiful-- "Her heart broke with pain and joy and the terror of love."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Radical Together - David Platt

Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God  by David Platt
Multnomah (2011)

Rating: 8
Readability: 8
Impact: 9

Read it Again: Yes.
Recommend It: Yes!

What to Expect

Pastor David Platt moves from his best selling book, Radical, focusing on our own ambitions and expectations, to Radical Together, a book that focuses on the position, responsibility, and power of a community of believers.

Radical Together is a call back to a Christ-centered vision for the Church--her energy, resources, and focus.

The book focuses on both home-based discipleship and missions abroad, in a manner modeled after the Gospel.

David Platt is direct and engaging. He doesn't smooth over the tough stuff. If you aren't prepared to be convicted or spend time in serious evaluation, don't read this book.

My Squib

Radical Together draws its arguments and conclusions from the character of God and the fallen state of Man. The Church is a body of sinful, messed up, complicated people...all wrong for this beautiful, momentous task, but together created for a weapon of victory.

We are called to be selfless followers of a self-centered God. He is not our slot machine. We are His servants. There is no greater joy than serving, glorifying, and enjoying Him as He has called us!

A book taking the Church this seriously is both refreshing and somewhat depressing... We've been doing a pretty rotten job.

Both of David Platt's books have given me a lot to think about and evaluate in my own priorities and attitudes. They are dangerous stuff. I'd love to talk to someone else who has read them and has another take.

They've been my book of choice to give away for 2011, but I guess I still haven't decided what I think on all their aspects. Time for a reread... If only there wasn't so much else to read too! ;-)

From the Book

"Are these steps radical in and of themselves? For some the answer has been yes. For others, the answer has been no. But for all, the aim has been to set our lives and our churches in motion by putting ourselves in positions where God can mold our hearts with his gracious Word for his glorious purpose."

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Radical Reformission - Mark Driscoll

The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out by Mark Driscoll
Zondervan 2004

Rating: 6
Readability: 8 (as long as you don't mind PG-13 content)
Impact: 7

Read it Again: Probably not, but got some good notes.
Recommend It: Maybe

What to Expect

Pastor Mark Driscoll tries to answer the question of open evangelism without compromise. He raises a lot of excellent questions and brings interesting facts and observations into discussion, but failed to give me a satisfying answer to the challenge.

His style is interesting and engaging but he goes beyond PG-13 sometimes. The world is a sticky, dirty place, and I don't mined some honesty and grime if it's to a point. In Radical Reformission, it seems like Pastor Driscoll is simply being earthy to prove that Christians can be earthy.

Overall the book is a interesting look into evangelism and how we've tangled ourselves. There is certainly plenty of wisdom and insight anyone can learn from.

My Squib

This book was good. I guess my main beef with it was on its view on the relationship between Gospel, the Church, and culture. He starts the book with this diagram in the introduction--

I could be just grossly misunderstanding this, but he does try to explain. I think culture/church will always be a complicated problem, but it seems like culture should flow from the worship as community of believers. His general lack of acknowledgement of the Church was a strain for me through out the whole book.

Here is a very un-techno diagram of what seems like a more natural/direct order of things.

This is big topic and I certainly know I don't have the answer, but Radical Reformission raised some questions that fascinated me.

I thought the book lacked a big picture look. Some of his answers and the Bible interpretations seemed overly simplistic. People are complicated and some of his answers just didn't allow for that.

Partly this book is his recent sermons and writing I see a different flavor that seems much more like the wizened sage who's been battered a bit more with the stupidity of human nature.

I have learned a lot from Mark Driscoll and he has a lot of wonderful, insightful things to say. But if you're looking for a book on this topic I would recommend Radical and Radical Together by David Platt before picking up Radical Reformission. Pastor Driscoll is a stronger on home-based missions, but I left unsatisfied and still puzzling about

From the Book

"God desires to bless all nations and cultures of the earth through us, and so he has sent us into exile in places and among peoples no less strange or lost than the Babylonians. I would never have chosen Seattle as my place of ministry because it is one of the most politically liberal, expensive yet uncharitable, and least churched yet most self-righteous cities in the nation. But as Paul said on Mars Hill, it is ultimately God who has chosen my birthday and address, placing me in Seattle today (Acts 17:26). Likewise, where you live is a place of Babylonian exile where God has placed you to be about reformission. And it is incumbent upon you to be wise, faithful, and fruitful, like Daniel was, so that the gospel can take root in your Babylonian soil."

Friday, August 19, 2011

Random thoughts from Idaho

I spent several hot days in Boise and Moscow this month. I was very blessed to be able to attend a friend's beautiful wedding and visit people I haven't seen in half a decade.

Most of the time I felt like I had the IQ and social graces of a delinquent moose, but God knew I needed the break from normal life.

And because lists are so handy and's just a few highlights.

-The wedding.
It is always magical (not in the fairy-dust sense, but in the gut wrenching, awe-inspiring way) to watch two committed people who have waited, worked, and listened to council, finally stand in front of a body of believers and declare their love to each other. Suddenly your friend is a Mrs. Somebody. It's crazy.
God is good...and love is both beautiful and terrifying.

I got to see dear friends and old acquaintances. I got to meet lots of new people. Generally I had an awesome time with good conversation, arguments, and brainstorming with funny, wonderful, intelligent people. :-)

-I spent a large part of my time writing on my current project...which isn't going so Writing and reading in various coffee shops was a sweet break. I spent a few days living in Bucer's. I shall miss it.

-Stargazing late at night after tromping through a damp golf course. I saw three shootings stars and managed to close my eyes at just the perfect time to miss the other dozen. Froze to death and had an amazing time.

Singing in Friendship Square, singing in a resthome, singing on the street, singing in church. All good.

-The moon.
Saturday night, there was the most glorious moon creating stunning lighting with dark clouds. I could have stared at it all night, but Benjamin and Susannah were there to talk me into being rational.

-Play structures.
Personally I love swings and all play structures no matter how small. Unfortunately, no one would brave them with me...Susannah...Bobbi Jo. Hem hem...

-Saturday picnic with a mob of NSA types. Awesome opportunity for conversation and people watching.

-My brother and sister came Saturday and we had a wonderful time bashing about and laughing continuously around Moscow. We had a delicious dinner in Bucer's and then watched a movie in the park on Benjamin's laptop. I have a pretty awesome family. The end.

-Picnic Sunday afternoon at the Arboretum with some wonderful ladies...and Benjamin, of course.

-The drive home. My tummy muscles are still aching from our laugh-a-thon.

-Everything and everyone else. Basically, it was awesome. :-)

It's good to be home and see the rest of my be back in Oregon where there is moisture in the air and the weather stays reasonable.

Whenever you leave, you get a perspective coming back. Here are a few things I noticed--

-Portland is green. No...really... As soon as you see signs heading towards Portland you go from brown to green with some other bright colors mixed in.

-I need more book shelves.
This is my conclusion nearly every day, but especially after coming home from anywhere...and especially after visiting a few too many book stores.

-Our water tastes the best. Not open for debate, simply true.

-My room is mild wreckage. I need to throw out a quarter of it and reorganize the rest.

-My whole life needs some reorganizing. What am I trying to get done anyways? Why do I like so many different things? What's important? How am I actually going to get anything accomplished?

-I am truly allergic to animals. How inconvenient.

-Bumpiness don't go away when you leave and come back, but you do get new perspective. Time to jump back into reorganizing my room, life, and relationships.

Despite the fact that sometimes I just really didn't think God had done His planning right, I know that He did. Seeing friends again, getting my mind cleared out and refreshed, working away from home, and coming back to beautiful, green Oregon with all these people I love is just the thing I needed.

I'll need to go back and visit some amazing people in Idaho again soon. :-) That's the problem with going anywhere...then you have more people to miss. Thank you so much, all of you who made my stay awesome. I am very grateful for the past two weeks

The end.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Some Days...

I think I forgot how to write a coherent sentence.

This is awkward.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Persecutor - Sergei Kourdakov

The Persecutor by Sergei Kourdakov
Fleming H. Revell Co (1973)

Rating: 8
Readability: 8
Impact: 8

Read it Again: Yes
Recommend It: Yes. Everyone should read it.

What to Expect

Sergei Kourdakov grew up in communist Russia and became a KGB agent in the 1970s. He excelled in his position as passionate youth leader, student, and athlete by day and persecutor by night.

The Persecutor (also known as Forgive Me Natasha) is his story of disillusionment with the communist system and confusion with Believers in the face of death and hatred.

My Squib

The Persecutor has no shinny turns of phrase or literary warm fuzzies, but it's written directly and honestly. It doesn't pretend to be anything more than the story of one man among thousands who suffered in Russia. Painful, powerful, and beautiful.

Kourdakov was shot only months after the book was finished. This is his true testimony to the world and his petition for forgiveness to the many Believers he persecuted. His prose is full of honor and respect.

I was pathetically ignorant of this period of history, so I am so thankful to have read a memoir of this caliber.

What would I do in this situation? Every once in awhile this question terrifies me. Would I take it with grace? How mushy are we as American Christians? Do we remember that we stand on the blood of thousands and thousands of Believers who have taken death with bravery and grace? Around the world people continue to die because they will not let go of the Cross. Right I type this. Do we remember?

Monday, August 15, 2011

A few thoughts on Poland

Currently, my life has involved a lot of travel (if you hadn't noticed by the silence). Sometimes that means writing and reading get left behind, and other other times, they get accelerated.

There is no simple way to explain my two weeks in Poland. God was very gracious to us and gave us the weather, people, and opportunities He knew we needed (even if it wasn't what we thought we needed).

He brought together over 35 people from multiple churches and four countries, all united under one God.

Our main ministry was traveling as a choir, singing on the street, and handing out invitations to our evening concerts. During the evenings, we would perform about 45 minutes worth of music with a 15 minute sermon. In the rain our attendance wasn't so great, but some days we were blown away by the people who stopped, listened, and wanted to talk afterwards.

The CREC Churches there are struggling for fellowship and encouragement. Many have very few children in them and people are just beginning to pioneer homeschooling. Watching the Polish saints' humility and unapologetic living-out of the Gospel as missionaries in their own country, was both convicting and inspiring.

The days I will remember most were the ones where we sat in one room with people from over four countries speaking one common language in worship. Christ is victorious. And with Him, and only Him, there is true unity and fellowship.

At one meal, I ate roasted lamb with people speaking Russian, Japanese, Ukrainian, Polish, and English to communicate in whatever way possible.

God is good.
He blessed us so much...I hope we were able to encourage and bless the Christians in Poland as well. Experiences, lessons, friendships and strained vocal chords that will last a lifetime.

We're planning and praying for another trip in 2013. Lord willing.

I am so thankful that God made it possible for me to go. I was pushed way out of my comfort zone, stretched, challenged, and amazed at every turn. I have been blessed beyond measure, over and over again.

I could say more. But if you're really all that interested, you could read Reformation for Poland or Evangelos, and I could get some sleep.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Book Addictions

I'm writing from Boise, because life ran away with me again. :-)

Did you know Borders is going out of business? Two book stores with sales in one day. Bad for my health (aka checkbook). But I did get some good books I've been wanting for a long time. :-)

Including Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee and The First Five Pages (both of which I've been wanting forever!).

By the way, the Next Generation Writer's Conference was amazing. :-) More writing stuff coming up...


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Change is Part of Life

There are a lot of factors to the Erratic Muse's silence, but one has been my current aversion to the clutter on my home page.
There may be continuous changes throughout the next several days...or lets face's gonna be weeks. Life is just about to tear off with me...again.

Feel free to give feedback and notify me if something isn't working.

I was very attached to the map look, but I need something less busy. At least for in this stressful phase of life. :-)

As I near the publication of my first book (YAY!), I am laying to rest my well used screen-name, Miss Pickwickian. From now on you can call me Bethany or Bethwackian, whichever you prefer. ;-) And please don't tell any creepy stalkers about my true identity. Thanks. You're a true friend.

In celebration of my attempted return to the blogging world and in anticipation for a new and improved Erratic Muse, I'll be hosting a giveaway! Keep your eyes open!

When the shuffling, clicking, and rearranging is all over, we'll have to do another for celebration. ;-)

Thanks for being patient. Miss you guys and all the bloginess of my former life.

Thanks for putting up with me and my erraticness,