Converge http://convergemagazine.com Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:11:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The heartache of Gazahttp://convergemagazine.com/heartache-gaza-14026/ http://convergemagazine.com/heartache-gaza-14026/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:11:52 +0000 http://convergemagazine.com/?p=14026 The heartache of Gaza by Phil Reilly

As I sit down to write this, my Twitter feed constantly updates me with 140 character descriptions from the war...

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The heartache of Gaza by Phil Reilly

As I sit down to write this, my Twitter feed constantly updates me with 140 character descriptions from the war zone that is Gaza. I can barely keep up. Truth be told, I don’t even have the ability to compute what I read.

As of this moment the figures are as follows: 100,000 Palestinians are now displaced in 69 United Nations Relief and Works Agency shelters in Gaza; the total number of children killed has now passed 130, representing almost a quarter of all Palestinian fatalities. That translates into one child killed every hour. And the latest count in fatalities in Gaza is well over 600.

Phil3It would appear, on that thin piece of land, there is nowhere to hide. There’s nowhere to run. Nowhere where the reaches of pain and death, grief and sorrow cannot search you out. No one is immune.

Contrast that, with this.

A few miles across from the war zone (despite the continual threat of Hamas rockets, signalled by the ringing of sirens), people have adopted cinema-style seating — complete with chips, drinks, and other snacks — in order to watch the military assaults. It’s like a Hollywood summer blockbuster, without the admission charge. In all its sophistication and modernity, missiles strike, cannons thud, and cheers are raised.

Phil2Phil2Phil2Over the past few weeks, as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has unravelled before our eyes, I have been struck by the lack of humanity and the absence of a moral compass. Israeli teenagers have been kidnapped and murdered. Palestinian children have been killed while playing soccer on a beach. Mothers have lost sons and daughters, children have lost parents, whole families have been killed. Hospitals, schools, homes, and rehabilitation centres have been destroyed.

Death, war, and tragedy have been montaged into bite-size newsreels so as not to overwhelm us from the comfort of our couches.

I am in despair.

I am neither Pro-Palestinian nor Pro-Israeli. I am pro-peace. I am pro-justice. I am pro-mercy. I am pro-whatever it takes to get the leaders of Hamas and the Israeli government to do the hard and exhaustive work of peace building. I am for an immediate cessation of violence and the laying down of arms. I call on the UN and western governments to stop with the rhetoric and to show our young people that they value life, and that they are willing to broker a lasting ceasefire.

Phil1As I look at the pictures of devastation in Gaza and the obliteration of what little infrastructure they had prior to “Operation Protective Edge,” I am filled with uncertainty as to what will happen next. Sadly, the blockades will continue. The military occupation will go on, and once the missile strikes end, Gazans will try and scrape out a new life from the ashes. But what of their homes and schools and hospitals? How will they rebuild? How will the children, scarred with the mental anguish of fear and grief, return to playing and flying kites? I really do not know.

What I do know is that enough is enough.

Upon my return from Israel/Palestine a few months ago, I was filled with hope for a peace-filled future. During my trip I had met and talked with people from both sides of the wall who are determined to shape a future for their children that is filled with peace. They want to stretch a hand of friendship and grace and offer a new narrative and paradigm that values life, freedom of movement, freedom of religious expression and freedom to healthcare, education, and opportunity.

Sadly, these grassroots stories rarely make the news, but they need to be highlighted and supported. Though I am sickened by daily news reports that show division, destruction, and death, I painfully cling onto the hope that one day we will not see Israel/Palestine making headlines because of war, but because of peace and restoration.

So let’s start speaking up about injustice and oppression. Let’s join together and make a difference in this world. Let’s write, email, and call our Member of Parliaments or other elected figures, and let’s tell them we want to see peace restored to Israel/Palestine. Let’s increase our support to NGOs in Israel/Palestine who work towards a non-violent, peace-filled resolution to conflict. And most importantly, let’s pray for peace.

Because enough is enough.

Featured photo (Flickr CC) by andlun1. All other photos by Phil Reilly.

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Don’t abstain from watching ‘The Virgins’http://convergemagazine.com/virgins-movie-shouldnt-abstain-watching-14020/ http://convergemagazine.com/virgins-movie-shouldnt-abstain-watching-14020/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:00:07 +0000 http://convergemagazine.com/?p=14020 Don’t abstain from watching ‘The Virgins’ by Josh Hamm

I really didn’t want to watch The Virgins. Not for any particular reason about the movie itself, or the people...

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Don’t abstain from watching ‘The Virgins’ by Josh Hamm

I really didn’t want to watch The Virgins.

Not for any particular reason about the movie itself, or the people involved with it, but simply because it is an independent Christian movie. As I’ve noted elsewhere, there is a certain lack of quality filmmaking within Christian movies, allowing message and content to trump the actual filmmaking itself. So I didn’t want to watch and review Matthew Wilson’s directorial debut because I didn’t want to write a generic bad review about yet another generic film that forgets the importance of real characters and compelling storytelling in favour of creating a Christian-friendly message.

Good thing I didn’t have to.

The adjective that will likely hound The Virgins is “surprising,” simply because many people don’t expect an independent Christian comedy to be, well, this good. The story is fairly simple: Nick and Mary are getting married, and since they’re a good Christian couple, they’ve both been abstinent, and are eagerly anticipating their wedding night. But this night has even more pressure than normal, because the next day Nick is shipping off to Afghanistan to serve in the army for just under a year.

Unfortunately for Nick and Mary, they get locked out of their honeymoon cottage in the middle of nowhere, which sets off a rather spectacular convergence of bizarre hijinks, family drama, and some of the most earnest — and funniest — prayers I’ve ever seen in a movie.

The Virgins re-hashes some classic archetypical characters to its advantage: the over-protective father of the bride, the obnoxious older sibling, the quirky foreign stranger. There is also a surprising amount of bagpipes, which is never a bad choice. But even when it indulges in clichés and archetypes, the film is still able to have fun with them. Sure, The Virgins was produced independently with no budget to speak of, so of course there are missteps in the production (such as a confusing scene involving Mary hiding in a hotel laundry cart). But the movie never stops working as a whole.

Some Christians may object to a “Christian sex comedy,” and some non-Christians may also object, for very different reasons, to a “Christian sex comedy.” But The Virgins will satisfy both camps. The film is funny enough to appeal to non-church goers, and it’s nuanced enough in its ideas about sex and marriage to appeal to Christians. In fact, it’s the film’s use of comedy as a way to discuss sex, marriage, and family dynamics that solidifies it as a success.

Wade Bearden, in his review at Christ and Pop Culture, points out the distinction in the film’s portrayal of sex: “The Virgins portrays sex not as the end all of marriage and relationships, but the symbol of two lives being forged together. Love isn’t intercourse; it’s protection, trust, and sacrifice.” This is where the real substance of the film lies. Once it lifts the veil of the jokes and odd situations, it explores not just, as Bearden points out, what sex is, but what marriage is and what it means for Nick and Mary. Consummating the marriage, two becoming one flesh, is not as important as their two families becoming one family and working through their difficulties. Of course, The Virgins gets there while meandering through its main purpose: getting people to laugh.

Matt Wilson is obviously a gifted screenwriter, and here’s to hoping that The Virgins is a gateway movie to bigger and better things.

The Virgins is now available to rent and purchase on iTunes and Vimeo.

 

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Does busyness equal success?http://convergemagazine.com/busyness-success-14007/ http://convergemagazine.com/busyness-success-14007/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:00:48 +0000 http://convergemagazine.com/?p=14007 Does busyness equal success? by Michael Morelli

I used to wear my busyness like a boy scout wears his badges. I wanted other people to consider me...

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Does busyness equal success? by Michael Morelli

I used to wear my busyness like a boy scout wears his badges.

I wanted other people to consider me a hard worker, versatile, and an all around good guy. And one merit badge wasn’t enough. I wanted an entire sash filled with buttons so I’d win the ultimate prize: success. 

So the logical approach seemed to be making myself busy. 

But then I ended up in the hospital three times in four years, each visit lasting about three weeks. Needless to say, I’ve since changed my approach.

When you have a chronic health disease like mine, you’re forced to slow down. And when you’re forced to slow down, you’re forced to reflect. Well, at least that’s what I did laying in hospital beds with tubes in my arms and IV machines dripping and clicking next to me. I was too wonky from the morphine doses to read a book or play Cut the Rope on my phone.

Pain is a powerful influencer and interrogator. You can only ignore it for so long before it wrestles you to the ground and forces you to deliver an account of yourself.

And so, during my lucid moments I had to reassess my life: how did I end up here? Is there anything I could have done to prevent this health crash? How can I avoid another one? What is important to me now that I’m completely convinced I’m not immortal? What do I want to spend my time doing once I’m healthy enough to check out of this place? 

I realized I had to change the way I lived. I had to move slower and do less in order to have my health restored. 

At the time, this understanding was not only depressing, it was incredibly demoralizing. But now I can say it was one the most important learning experiences I’ve ever received. By being forced to slow down and reflect on how I was living, I have discovered a different definition of success, and how it is achieved.

I recently read Matt Perman’s What’s Best Next, a book that blows up common conceptions of things like productivity, efficiency, prioritization, and success (among other business jargon that success-driven people tend to use). Perman says this: “Productivity is not first about getting more things done faster. It’s about getting the right things done.”

When I read that, it hit me right between the eyes.

If I define success as the praise and attention of others, I will continue to run myself ragged.

But if I define success as focusing on and pouring myself into what I am made to do in life — without allowing myself to be distracted — then I will become healthier, easier to be around, more content, and filled with a deep and lasting joy. Which interestingly enough, leads to a greater kind of success: impacting the world with my gifts and not wasting time on other, less important things.

Now I make a daily point of focusing on the right things, and avoiding everything else. Because when I do this well, I find I’m the most successful at what I am created to do and be in the world.

Photo (Flickr CC) by Jennifer Woodard Maderazo.

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Consumed by stuffhttp://convergemagazine.com/consumed-by-stuff-13969/ http://convergemagazine.com/consumed-by-stuff-13969/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 11:00:34 +0000 http://convergemagazine.com/?p=13969 Consumed by stuff by Ashley Rankin

Ask me not what I have, but what I am. (Heinrich Heine) Our world revolves around consumption. The average person, according...

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Consumed by stuff by Ashley Rankin

Ask me not what I have, but what I am. (Heinrich Heine)

Our world revolves around consumption. The average person, according to the marketing firm Yankelovich, sees as many as 5,000 ads a day. They’re messages about the things we should like, about the products that will make us feel good and happy. That if we buy a certain brand of jeans, we will attain a certain brand of life. That we’ll be more attractive to the opposite sex if we drive one particular car over another. And that one of our ultimate goals should be to buy a big house to store all our jeans and cars and all the other stuff we’ve collected.

And so the way in which I acquired is nothing out of the ordinary. I am a product of my culture.

I grew attached to almost everything: the beautiful and impractical, the sensible, the sentimental.

But the problem is, I found myself connected to so many belongings, that with each passing year and the stuff that came with it, I made space. Space for things I had acquired and the things given to me. Space for books and binders and stuffed animals and athletic trophies. More space for candles and clothes and collectibles.

Inevitably, all my space got used up. So I became a grand organizer, using spacers and organizers and more and more boxes to accommodate my growing collection of clutter.

The management of things had taken over my life.

It had been a comfort of sorts to know that I could dig for handwritten notes on tattered paper, or to be able to reach for every book I had intended to read in 2012, then 2013, now this past spring.

So it came as a shock to me that I recently felt compelled to stack boxes upon boxes of my possessions outside my childhood bedroom for donation.

The things that once had given me such joy were now taking that joy away. I was swimming in stuff, increasingly unable to focus on my goals and tasks at hand. My current dreams, desires, and ideas were somehow caught in this tangible space. Creative ideas stuck in between old books, new concepts concealed under stacks of paper, peace of mind fallen behind overcrowded shelves.

So I chose to do something radical, even revolutionary. I let go.

I filled boxes with a seemingly endless supply of stuff. A personal anthology of graduate school books and old journals and classic literature and graded papers from years past.  I emptied my armoire of brand new, still-tagged slacks and blouses from various stints in retail, and I gave away beautiful glass glitter globes more deserving of places where they could shine instead of on my overcrowded shelves. An exodus of stuff left my shelves, my closet space, my drawers, my corners. And I was enlightened.

I felt the value of this empty space. I was no longer burdened by the literal weight of my past, by the hoarding of sentiment.

Soon after my purge, I went on my first trip to Europe. I promised myself to embrace beautiful moments, rather than stressing out about grabbing tourist items at each turn. I promised myself that my memories would be of greater importance than Italia magnets, “I’ve been to Europe” t-shirts, and mini leaning Tower of Pisas.

And so, I cherished the beauty in Italian vandalism (Amor tutti fa uguali, Love makes all men equal), the hope in each prayer candle flickering silently under Mother Mary in the Norte Dame Basilica of Marseille. I was mesmerized by the hypnotic pulse of vanilla and bergamot on gusts of summer air in the hills of a perfumery in France.

Upon my return, when people ask me what I brought back from my trip, I smile and mention a keychain or two. But my important possessions are ones not able to be held; they’re intangible, in the empty spaces where things could have been.

Dedicated to Dominique: my friend, inspiration, and travel extraordinaire.

Photo (Flickr CC) by Alex.

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Planning a wedding on a budgethttp://convergemagazine.com/wedding-budget-12892/ http://convergemagazine.com/wedding-budget-12892/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 11:00:27 +0000 http://convergemagazine.com/?p=12892 Planning a wedding on a budget by Leanne Janzen

The big question has been popped. The ring’s on the finger. You can’t be more excited to grow old and...

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Planning a wedding on a budget by Leanne Janzen

The big question has been popped. The ring’s on the finger. You can’t be more excited to grow old and wise with the person beside you. Your heart is full.

But now you have to make this whole thing happen.

It can be easy to get caught up in the we-deserve-it-no-matter-what-it-costs-because-it’s-our-day attitude: the industry of opulence and expectation has come to define what weddings are all about. According to a Weddingbells survey conducted in 2012, the average cost of a Canadian wedding comes in at $23,330; and The Knot says it’s even higher in the U.S. at $28,400. Though it takes a bit more time and creativity, you can still make your wedding beautiful on a budget.

1. Pinterest is your friend.

Though you might have to wade through the unreasonable (ceremonies in the forest with millions of chandeliers hanging from trees! Tree bark wedding cake with your initials carved into it!) there’s a lot on Pinterest that’s worth it. Try not to have unrealistic expectations for your DIY creations, and leave plenty of time for yourself to master your craftiness. There’s a reason pinterestfail.com exists.

2. Kijiji’s cool too.

Once people get married, they want to sell all their wedding stuff. Looking for picture frames for your table numbers? Mason jars? Arches, chalkboards, table runners? You can save a lot  buying second-hand.

3. Buy bridesmaids/groomsmen attire off the rack.

Chances are your bridesmaids and groomsmen don’t have a lot of spare cash reserved for buying clothes for your wedding. It might take a bit more scavenging, but there are some beautiful dress clothes out there that don’t happen to cost $500 apiece.

4. Skip the DJ, make a playlist.

DJs can cost over $1,000, and you might be a little disappointed with the result. Think about asking one of your dance-loving friends to make the Best Playlist Ever, with your must-have grooves included. This will not only save you some funds, it will also save your guests the pain of swaying to too many ’80s rock ballads.

5. Accept help.

They say leadership is the art of delegation. Well, so is wedding planning. People who love you will naturally want to be part of the planning and preparation process. So when Auntie Lorna offers to tackle the centrepieces, take her up on her offer! Accepting help is not only a great way to include people in the celebration, it can also save you a lot of time, effort, and money. Just be sure to either give extremely detailed instructions, or give up a little control in what the end result will look like.

Though planning a beautiful and creative experience for your guests is important, it’s not the main purpose of the day. Your wedding is ultimately about making vows to your spouse and to God, in front of a whole bunch of people. And that’s priceless.

Photo (Flickr CC) by Jordan Smith.

Published originally in Issue 17 of Converge Magazine.

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Unfriending Facebookhttp://convergemagazine.com/unfriend-facebook-13973/ http://convergemagazine.com/unfriend-facebook-13973/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 11:00:56 +0000 http://convergemagazine.com/?p=13973 Unfriending Facebook by Jenn Co

Dear Facebook, It has been seven years since that fateful day we got together. In the beginning, things were fun...

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Unfriending Facebook by Jenn Co

Dear Facebook,

It has been seven years since that fateful day we got together. In the beginning, things were fun and exciting. We played games and embarked on spontaneous adventures. Eight hours with you sometimes wasn’t enough. Not a day went by without me thinking about you. You swept me off my feet and took over my world. Call it young love.

You were Mr. Popularity. You seemed to know everyone and were always invited to the coolest parties. Thanks for introducing me to hundreds of new friends, and even locating some of my childhood classmates.

Over the years, I’ve relied on you to the point that now, I’m afraid we may have slipped into a co-dependent relationship. Not only are you heavily involved in my personal life (I can’t have a conversation without bringing you up: “Hey, how’s your Mom? Facebook told me she has been in the hospital for a week. You OK?” ) you’ve also entered into my professional zone. Some stories I cover as a media producer are based on tip-offs I receive from the newsfeed you’ve set up for me. I’ve snagged jobs and joined groups facilitated by your networking skills. You’ve even help me promote my ventures, so please don’t think I’m ungrateful.

You’re a wealth of information and because of that, I’m now more aware of the world at large, sometimes more than I care to know. Granted, there’s something about you that causes people to open up, divulging some of their deepest darkest secrets. But truth be told, when I’m with you, you share things about others I really have no business knowing. If it’s not something they would discuss with me face-to-face, then why should I know about it? Consequently, I find it distressing when people blame you for their relationship break-ups or make vague passive-aggressive statements when they really just need to directly confront those involved.

Initially, it was amazing having access to so much information, but now I feel overwhelmed. What if I didn’t watch the latest viral video you posted? Or read up on what’s trending at the moment? Isn’t there more to life than never-ending data streams? I hate it when you unrelentingly remind me that you’re all about connecting. What if I want to disconnect and just hibernate?

The more I hear about people’s blissful lives, the more jealous I become. I find myself striving to create the image of a happy, successful world traveller who meets scads of celebrities. I fight for invites to noteworthy events and have since learned the art of the humble brag.

Deep inside, I’m exhausted from working so hard keeping up this self-made public image. All those Instagram filters and location check-ins belie the truth that I’m battling rejection, insecurity and profound loneliness. And yes, I deal with the pain by distracting myself: browsing through photostreams and updates. I have turned my life into a voyeuristic stalker.

Let’s call a spade a spade. I’m addicted to you.

It doesn’t matter where I go or who I meet. Everyone asks me the same thing, “Are you on Facebook?” It’s nuts how inseparable we’ve become. Some days I can’t imagine what life was before you entered the picture.

Which is why we need to call it quits. I recognize our relationship is dysfunctional and I need to rediscover my identity apart from you.

This simply is not working out.

I’m sorry, but it’s over.

 

Jenn

 


OK. So I never wrote Facebook that sappy letter. I did, however, send them a note around Valentine’s Day. Here’s why.

For Facebook’s 10-year anniversary, I was bestowed a gift: a month-long friend request block. Now before you break into hysterics, asking, “How is that even possible?” let me explain. Due to the nature of my work as a media producer, I meet a ton of people. So it’s perfectly normal for me to add new “friends” to social media platforms 24-48 hours after I’ve met them. It’s part of my modus operandi. So when Facebook curtailed my freedom from contacting new acquaintances, I flipped.

Apparently, Facebook has an algorithm that determines when friend requests look unusual: for example, lots of friend requests that have gone unanswered, or (worse yet) marked as unwelcome. If you cross a certain line, Facebook will block you from sending any new friend requests for a set amount of time. That’s what happened to me. Although recognizing my pleas would fall on deaf ears, I hearkened to voice my disgruntled state.

Despite my written petitions to lift their ban, I received nary a response and had no choice but to wait for 30 days to pass. I could have missed a number of potential business connections. But the imposed silence got me thinking: how did the world operate pre-Facebook? If it has been done before, perhaps I could do it again.

At some point in this whole fiasco, I recognized the restriction was perhaps a blessing in disguise. It forced me to ask some gritty questions: Why do I have a compulsion to collect friends religiously? What does “friend” really mean? Who actually knows me?

In all honesty, the level of intimacy with my nearly 3,000 Facebook friends equals the depth of a sheet of paper. This obsession to appear successful, confident, liked and accepted — all within the guise of my friend tally — only bleeds the reality that amassing virtual connections perpetuates loneliness.

Because connection isn’t conversation with real people in real time. It’s all edited personal promotion in order to project the most desirable image of ourselves. And yet speaking as someone whose livelihood is dependent on the amount of people I reach, the social network provides an interesting conundrum: quantity over quality. Now there’s the rub.

I’m not here to supply you a list of top 10 ways to defeat a Facebook addiction. I’m here to pose the question of whether it’s possible to keep social media as a tool, not as a source to meet our need for belonging and acceptance.

So let me ask you: What’s your relationship status with Facebook?

Photo (Flickr CC) by dawolf-.

Article originally published in Issue 18 of Converge Magazine.

 

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The promised land?http://convergemagazine.com/promised-land-13980/ http://convergemagazine.com/promised-land-13980/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 16:49:00 +0000 http://convergemagazine.com/?p=13980 The promised land? by Converge Admin

In one of the most embattled regions in the world, Israel and Palestine are ignited once again with more violence. Hamas...

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The promised land? by Converge Admin

In one of the most embattled regions in the world, Israel and Palestine are ignited once again with more violence. Hamas — which is part of the Palestinian government — and Israel are engaged in what is being called one of the worst flare-ups in this region for years.

So what started it this time? It began with the abduction of Israeli teens and the subsequent finding of their bodies. Then a Palestinian teen was found dead. The violence escalated from there. The latest news on the conflict saw Hamas rejecting Egypt’s potential peace plan (which Israel agreed to) and firing rockets into Israel, killing an Israeli manIsrael’s response: fire rockets right back. As Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Hamas chose to continue fighting and will pay the price for that decision. When there is no ceasefire, our answer is fire.”Israel’s next step is reportedly to target Hamas’ political leader with further air strikes.

The Bible refers to Israel as “the promised land,” God’s chosen nation. But painting Israel as the victim would be naive. There is no good guy or bad guy. There is only violence, and victims on both sides. People are dying everywhere, and we can’t afford to be ignorant of what is happening on our planet. 

Photo (Flickr CC) by [ john ].

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A Q&A with Lightfallhttp://convergemagazine.com/lightfall-worship-13928/ http://convergemagazine.com/lightfall-worship-13928/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 11:00:42 +0000 http://convergemagazine.com/?p=13928 A Q&A with Lightfall by Nathan Henderson

Lightfall, a Toronto-based worship band, released its first EP on June 24, and has already made quite the impact. The...

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A Q&A with Lightfall by Nathan Henderson

Lightfall, a Toronto-based worship band, released its first EP on June 24, and has already made quite the impact. The album shot up to #1 on the iTunes Inspiration Charts, #36 on the Canadian Top Albums and #67 worldwide (according to UK charts). Made up of five guys who came together from different churches and backgrounds, Lightfall Worship has a fresh sound and a reach that spans across denominations.


 

I caught up with the band in bustling downtown Toronto to get to know the guys, and to hear what lies in store for the newly minted chart toppers. 

Your EP debuted at #1 on the iTunes Inspiration Charts. Did you guys expect that? How do you feel about that response?

Almost in unison: We didn’t expect it at all.

Mark (drums): One of our friends took a screenshot of iTunes and tweeted it at us, and was like, “You’re sitting in top five right now!” And we’re like, “Are you sure that’s us?” Then it just kept creeping up and stayed there for like three days!

Renz (front man): Yeah we just watched it, we couldn’t believe it.

Marquis (bass guitar): When we were working on [the album] and getting it together we never thought we would get the response that we did.

How many of you guys knew each other before Lightfall?

Mark: Well Renz and I knew each other, and Ryan and Marquis worked together. And Nathan…

Renz: He’s the funny one!

Nathan (rhythm guitar): I was the accident.

Mark: Yeah, Ryan found him on the Internet!

Nathan: It couldn’t have come at a better time honestly. I had been going through a similar situation. I didn’t know where to start, I was just about to give up when Ryan responded to me and it went from there. It was so cool.

lightfall2How does coming from different churches and denominations affect the way you guys make music?

Mark: Our starting point is Scripture. We’ve done Pentecostal events, Methodist events; we’re doing a Baptist retreat this year. Denominations don’t really play a role as much as Jesus does. [The music] reaches across denominations. We always want to be conscious of where we’re going, as there are definite styles that some denominations are used to, so we have to be sensitive to that.

Renz: I definitely think that worked to our advantage, because we knew that it’s different in different places. I came to a church that was very expressive in their worship, but I’ve also been to churches that are very reserved.

Mark: It’s cool to see how God shows up through all these things, in different ways, and realize that He’s still the same all throughout, in all the places we’ve been so far.

What impact do you guys want your music to have? 

Mark: Honestly, just to make Jesus famous. But, while we do it, we know that our impact individually, our talents and abilities, is what is helping reach people with Jesus. Our God-given abilities and making Jesus famous go hand in hand.

Renz: When we did our first gig [at a youth retreat], the kids were so nervous! They thought we were this hotshot band. A couple days into the retreat, they came and finally opened up and talked with us. When that barrier was finally broken down and the kids started to talk to us about music, we finally became approachable to them. I think it’s about making that bridge between youth and adults, or spiritual mentors or whatever you want to call it. We want to be able to share with these young people that, “Hey, we’ve gone through the same things that you guys have, and there’s salvation in this guy named Jesus.”

Marquis: It says on our website that our goal is to share God’s story. We want to walk away from our performances knowing that we gave them the opportunity to be with God, whether it’s through our performance, lyrics, etc.

Mark: There’s something really foreign about showing up at a place, leading worship and then disappearing. What this is is a ministry, and ultimately being able to connect with kids, pastors, and parents, whoever it is. It’s important to us that this isn’t just an isolated event; we want to be able to make a lasting impact in people’s lives. Like our first retreat, we’ve been able to come back and be able to see how God has changed the kids’ lives. We keep in contact through Twitter and stuff like that too.

Ryan: Yeah it’s nice that we keep going back to the same places. It’s nice to know that we made an impact because they want us to come back, and then we’re able to keep those relationships alive face-to-face as well.

So what’s happening now? What’s in the future?

Ryan: Well, we’re having a band meeting tomorrow! (Everyone laughs) Marquis had this great idea that we set goals for 2014, and we’ve actually achieved all of them — release an EP, at least play once a month — so we need to figure out what’s next. We’ve tentatively thought of doing a tour during 2015, and I think our goal is also to release a full album sometime next year too. All in all though, we’re just going to continue playing and continue praying. We’ve relied on God this far, and just because we’ve seen a bit of success it doesn’t mean, “Oh! We can do this by ourselves!” We’re going to continue trusting in Him.


 

I came away from this interview feeling like I’d made a bunch of new friends. These guys are down-to-earth and real, and they know their glory is God’s glory. Stay tuned for their full-length album sometime in the future.

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Malala Day: fighting for gender equalityhttp://convergemagazine.com/malala-day-fighting-gender-equality-13963/ http://convergemagazine.com/malala-day-fighting-gender-equality-13963/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 17:00:28 +0000 http://convergemagazine.com/?p=13963 Malala Day: fighting for gender equality by Converge Admin

Unbeknownst to most people, yesterday, July 14, was Malala Day, as recognized by the UN’s Global Education First Initiative. Who...

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Malala Day: fighting for gender equality by Converge Admin

Unbeknownst to most people, yesterday, July 14, was Malala Day, as recognized by the UN’s Global Education First Initiative. Who is Malala? You might remember her as the girl from Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban for her activism on the behalf on women’s education. The Taliban thought that would be the end of her troublesome pandering about education (which she had be doing since she was 11). Instead, Malala Yousafzai did the one thing that Taliban didn’t want her to do: she lived. More than that, she continued her passionate work.

In Islamic countries, women don’t get nearly the same treatment that they would in the West. They are considered second class citizens, firmly entrenched below all men on the totem pole of power. Many are barred access to education, as well as most of the rights that we take for granted in Western society. Malala threatened the status quo and the Taliban retaliated. This happened when Malala was 15. Now she is 17, and already her impact is worldwide.

It’s people like Malala who shed light on just why gender equality is one of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. She’s also an example of the simple power of an idea, and following through on it. As Malala writes herself, she is just one girl, but she’s helping to change the world.

Photo (CC) courtesy of Curtis Brown.

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The art of workhttp://convergemagazine.com/art-of-work-13957/ http://convergemagazine.com/art-of-work-13957/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 11:00:34 +0000 http://convergemagazine.com/?p=13957 The art of work by Michael Morelli

My first summer job was looking after Duggan Grey’s lawn. I was 14-years-old, and Duggan was a veteran of the...

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The art of work by Michael Morelli

My first summer job was looking after Duggan Grey’s lawn. I was 14-years-old, and Duggan was a veteran of the Second World War. He would pay me $100 a month, and would always invite me inside for a glass of water after work to tell me war stories.

My favourite part of the job — even though I dreaded it at first — was helping Duggan craft a bonsai tree in his front yard.

It was a large pine, and it had wires strategically attached to its branches and base. Over time, these manipulations would make the tree lean over like a taller-than-a-human version of the bonsai Mr. Miyagi has the character Daniel prune in Karate Kid. But Duggan was too old to climb the ladder and reach the top branches, so I’d climb up with pruning shears, wire cutters, and spools of wire to make sure the tree was engineered correctly to bend and grow in the right way.

Even though putting my face in pine branches in the heat of summer was less than ideal, I began to fall in love with the work as I saw the tree take new shape over the weeks. Slowly, like the tree that eventually bent toward the sun, I was bending towards an appreciation of the art of work.

As I’ve moved on to other jobs like golf course grounds keeping, barista gigs, and now creative ministry, this experience from my first summer job has shaped my understanding about what work can and should look like — that the meaning and art of work is much like God’s presence in the every day things we typically view as inconsequential. Really, the meaning and the art are in the details, and we just have to be intentional and persistent in our search for them.

A person trimming a tree and cutting grass can be just as much of an artist as the person who paints, just as the person who crunches numbers or pushes a broom and empties wastebaskets for a living can be as much of an artist as the writer or the musician. It just depends on a person’s willingness to re-evaluate what the work and art means, and how those two things relate.

How you define work and art is up to you. But so goes a story I once heard: a man is walking down the street and he sees a worker, building something. The builder looks tired, angry, and worn out, so the man stops and asks the builder, “What are you building?” The builder sighs and says, “A stupid wall.” Then he goes back to work with a frown on his face.

The man who was walking wishes the builder all the best and keeps moving down the street. But he gets only a few feet away until he sees another builder working on the same construction site. Except this builder is smiling, focused, and appears to be satisfied by the work he is doing. So the man stops and asks the second builder, “And what are you doing?” To which the second builder replies with a joyful grin, “Me? I’m building a beautiful cathedral.”

There will be days when work is mundane, when we struggle to find meaning, art, and joy in our tasks. But our perspective matters. We’re invited into the construction of something beautiful, even if it’s an accumulation of the everydays. Because meaning exists in the unremarkable maybe even more than in the momentous: when a kind word, a voice of reason, and yes, a beautifully shaped tree can have the profoundest of impacts.

 

Photo (Flickr CC) by Klearchos Kapoutsis.

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