Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Place of Healing - Joni Eareckson Tada

Joni’s swan song?

A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain and God’s Sovereignty
Author: Joni Eareckson Tada
Publisher: David C. Cook
Pages: 214

In A Place of Healing, Joni Eareckson Tada writes “in the midst of my experience, in the violence of a firefight, in the crush of circumstances, and in the vice grip of unrelenting pain,” which brings an immediacy to the entire book.

As hard as it is to live for more than 40 years as a quadriplegic in a wheelchair, Joni had become somewhat acclimated to it all. This book chronicles her agonizing battle with a season of unrelenting pain. This is prior to her more recent breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment, which continues to this day.

Joni’s season of suffering, which she details in these pages, leads her to revisit questions about healing, suffering and God’s sovereignty. Having been exposed to popular and theological views on healing over the course of years, I found this to be one of the best and most balanced presentations that I have ever read.

There are repeated references and quotations from the book Miraculous Healing by Henry Frost, which has profoundly shaped her views. She articulates wisdom from this source and her own experience.

Regardless of where one falls on the theological spectrum, this is a valuable work that deserves a place in any theological library. The greatest value though will be to those who are personally wrestling with these issues. It’s biographical, transparent, winsome, encouraging and practical.

By the end, Joni is thanking God for her wheelchair. If God had healed her after her accident in 1967, none of her subsequent ministry (speaking, writing, broadcasting, singing, distributing wheelchairs, painting, etc.) would be in existence today.

One of the most moving chapters is filled with stories of people around the world who have received wheelchairs through Joni’s Wheels for the World ministry. It’s easy to see the hand of God in these accounts.

It’s a little hard reading about how much Joni has been suffering, but that is not the focus. She writes to bring glory to God and give hope to others. She is like a bird singing in the dark, waiting for the break of dawn. Her eyes are forward-looking, and she takes readers with her.

If she never writes another book, this is a fitting swan song.

Friday, March 18, 2011

At the Edge of Imperfection - Joseph Henschel

Creativity spreads like wildflowers on worship recording

At the Edge of Imperfection
Artist: Joseph Henschel (http://www.josephhenschel.com/)
Label: Independent
Length: 12 tracks/53:02 minutes

Thankfully, we may have reached a stage where artists that create worship music are paying nearly as much attention to form as content. In earlier days a simple chorus and straightforward music garnered mass appeal. Artistry seemed to be secondary, with much of it sounding the same and not appealing to those with more refined tastes.

I see progress in recordings like At the Edge of Imperfection by Joseph Henschel. Sure, there are similarities with other recordings in the genre, but commonalities are inescapable. Some originality is what makes this a little different.

“Prelude” starts with the sounds of an old, scratchy vinyl record followed by the lone sounds of a piano made to sound like some forgotten recording. Though I have heard this before, it’s just one among several examples of the little touches sprinkled throughout this CD.

The song continues with acoustic guitar strumming that intensifies, building anticipation as Henschel repeats, “I was born to love you.” A crescendo followed by a solitary rhythmic electric guitar kick it up another notch, followed by the addition of drums. This is just the introduction to “Born to Love,” the second track.

The variation between acoustic sounds mingled with more modern ones works well. Just when “Ruler of My Heart” seems over, the last 30 seconds contain a quiet reprise of the lyrics accompanied by piano. Toward the end, “Awake the Day” has all the drive of a Coldplay song, but not unlike this influence who mix tranquil moments with rock, the last minute is a beautiful interplay of acoustic guitar, piano and angelic voices. As much as I like modern rock, these reprieves of quiet are my favorite moments.

Henschel deserves the credit. He produced and engineered this second release (he debuted with Capture Me on {L}istener Records) in such a way that like wildflowers bits of artistry pop up unexpectedly. The sound is clean and crisp and not over-produced.

The subject matter is what you would expect on a worship recording with alternating praise, declarations and pleas. He sings with obvious passion to music that matches his intensity.

One of the curiosities is the length of the title track, which is under two minutes. I should not be surprised. It’s another quiet, imaginative interlude that exudes the spirit of worship.

Don’t miss the hidden track at the end of “Beautiful Light.” It’s a fitting close, with nothing more than Henschel baring his soul to the strumming of his guitar.

If you download this and transfer it to a CD, don’t make the mistake of leaving a few seconds gap between tracks. Many of the songs are seamless (another creative plus), with the end of one being the beginning of another.

You can find At the Edge of Imperfection at Henschel’s website (see Artist listing above) and iTunes.

Come to the Waters (Collector's Edition) - Children of the Day

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