Archives For Lacey Sturm

The film, ‘Reign Over Me’ (2007), written and directed by Mike Binder, is, without a doubt Adam Sandler’s best movie to date. I’ve seen most of his films, the most recent being ‘Sandy Wexler’ (2017) and ‘The Week Of…‘ (2018). By comparison the only other films that might come close are, ‘The Wedding Singer‘ (1998), his remake of ‘Mr. Deeds‘ (2002), ‘Bedtime Stories‘ (2008) and ‘Pixels‘ (2015); but even those don’t achieve what ‘Reign Over Me’ does, or go where it goes.

Sandler’s character, Charlie Fineman, is a widower who looks a lot like Bob Dylan in his early days. Fineman is a dentist by trade, and an apartment dwelling hermit, living in isolation within New York City, who suffers from post-traumatic stress and depression. Sandler’s signature, unpredictable outbursts, are reminiscent of  ‘Happy Gilmore‘ and ‘Anger Management’, though this behavioural similarity exists, it fits perfectly with the circumstances, making Sandler’s portrayal of the grief-stricken Fineman, not only believable, but in my opinion, Oscar worthy.

At the centre of the story-line line are events that took place during September 11, 2001.The film approaches this subject with sensitivity. Avoiding the politics the screenwriters look past conspiracy theories, however, what is glaringly absent is any discussion about Islamism or Islamic terrorism. In a lot of ways this is assumed.

On balance, the film does dedicate a scene to some news articles, albeit ones that are discussing America’s response. I have no real issue with this, for the following reason: The screenwriters are respecting their audience by not spelling out the obvious. I have huge respect for directors and writers who do this. Within the context of ‘Reign Over Me‘, the strategy is understandable. It keeps the focus of the audience on Charlie Fineman’s journey.

In addition to Sandler’s brilliant portrayal of a forgotten victim of September 11, both Don Cheadle (of Hotel Rwanda fame) and Liv Tyler, add their own style and bring to the film a warmth, juxtaposed with contrasts. Cheadle is Sandler’s college room-mate; also a dentist and extremely successful in his own right. Cheadle’s character (Alan Johnson) is aware of Fineman’s tragic past, but had lost contact with him over the years. Johnson has his own issues, which all start to come to bare, after randomly crossing paths with Fineman in the street. Johnson seeks to reconnect with Fineman.

Not completely aware of Fineman’s suffering, Johnson quickly recognises the pain his friend is suffering with. He begins to try to help Fineman. This creates tension between Johnson and his wife, and a series of misunderstandings with an ever suspicious Fineman.

Fineman wants no help, only later choosing to see Johnson’s long-term friend and pyschologist, Angela Oakhurst (played by Liv Tyler). Oakhurst works to bring Fineman to a place where he can address the past and his own brokenness, in his own time. Cheadle’s performance keeps the film moving along, perfectly complementing Sandler’s. Liv Tyler compliments Cheadle. The perfect casting circle is made complete when Donald Sutherland turns up in the role of Judge Rains.

The film comes to a close with Fineman’s in-laws trying to speak with him. Fineman breaks downs, becomes violent, and as a result is held in custody for psychological evaluation. As Rains becomes aware of Fineman’s emotional and psychological state, he sees straight through the opportunistic lawyer representing Fineman’s in-laws. With Solomon-esk wisdom Rains outmanoeuvres the lawyer, making it clear that what he has in Fineman is a forgotten victim of September 11, 2001, who deserves a chance to be heard, helped and respected.

Reign Over Me‘, does have some unnecessary language and some interesting sub plots. Those side plots wind up coming together in the end. Though they seem to detract from the film at first, as the story progress, the genius of their inclusion in the film  becomes clear. The sub plots are used to fortify the audiences cheering in the end, through their desire to see Fineman heal and overcome the obstacles forced upon him.

The film isn’t complete without the impressive soundtrack, of which the stand out song is Eddie Vedder’s cover of The Who’s, ‘Love, Reign O’er Me‘ and The Fray’s, ‘How to Save a Life’.  The live and studio versions included; Vedder’s performance, as far as I have heard, is his best vocal work in a song.

As far as art and theology goes, ‘Reign Over Me’ is rich in metaphor. What I see in ‘Reign Over Me‘ is God’s redemptive love – displayed in the film by Cheadle, Tyler and Sutherland’s characters. They fight for Fineman, yet still place an emphasis on him taking responsibility for his own actions. Fineman was empowered, but he still had to decide to respond to the love and help (salvation – grace) he was given.

Since the theme of God’s redemptive love is part of a lot of current discussion, the metaphors are worth noting. The freedom we find in God’s redemptive love is not a “freedom” that is said to be found in human love. For Fineman, human love was not to be trusted. Such love is at best optimism, at worst morbid existential navel gazing and/or veiled self-centred ambition. God’s love draws us out of ourselves in the form of His gracious Word spoken to humanity, which is both invitation and command (Jesus Christ and Covenant). We are drawn out of ourselves to be free for God and our neighbour. Such freedom comes with limitations.

I seem to be on a roll with recommending and reviewing art that, to me, is written, for the broken, from the broken, to the broken. ‘Reign Over Me‘, in my opinion, fits this category like no other film I’ve seen.  It hits at our grief, the lies we tell ourselves and the traps we fall into because we fall under the radar of complacent and dismissive family members, who, in overlooking the complexities of our brokenness, can seem to demand more than we are ready to give; simply because we don’t know how, or don’t yet have the strength to give it. ‘Reign Over Me‘ is an honest prayer-filled, heart-wrenching scream that meets with what Lacey Strum wrote, when summing up her reasons for screaming in songs:

‘Like ‘emotional vomit’, lyrics about ‘horrible abuse, if sung honestly, must be screamed…Screaming was my natural response to injustice… When I started writing music with screaming in it, the point was to hit someone back… After God rescued me, however, I found a purpose for my screaming: to speak truth over the lies in people’s hearts. Lies like the ones I believed about myself when I wanted to die.’ – (Lacey Sturm, 2014 The Reason, pp.77-82)

Let there be light. Inhaled grace ignites.

 


Disclaimer:

I did not receive any remuneration for this review, in any form.

Australia receives snow in its Alpine regions and on its higher inland plateaus. For those areas that’s freezing.

For everywhere else, it’s freezing if the temperature gets to anything below 12 degrees Celsius (53.6 Fahrenheit).

For us, this means that homeschooling gets a little easier. Winter and reading go hand in hand. We don’t have to navigate the Australian heat. We just have to aim at keeping warm.

It doesn’t appear to matter which culture you come from. Short, cold days, and the inner warmth of houses, incubate tranquillity.

Creating an environment which encourages us to slow down, sit, zone out and learn from the stillness that surrounds us.

Picking up a book and reading it isn’t just easy, it’s tempting and looked forward to.

Our dedicated reading list this winter is fairly straight forward.

1. Trends in Food Technology: Food Processing (Anne Barnett)

I was apprehensive about taking this on. It appeared to be full of jargon, almost unusable. Since working through the 43 pages, however, I haven’t regretted the decision. Barnett’s approach is conversational. She also provides a glossary in the back for bold text words featured throughout the book.

Food Technology fits in perfectly with our PD.H.PE curriculum needs, discussing a range of areas including food processes, preservation, flavorings, fats, oils, and key distinctions. One I’m seriously considering adding permanently to our library.

2. The Reason & The Mystery (Lacey Sturm)

If you’re tagging along with me on the internet somewhere, you’ll be no stranger to the fact that we like Lacey Sturm. I read Lacey’s book, ‘The Reason’ in 2015 and wrote some thoughts on it, which can be found here [Review: The Reason].

Whilst the idea did occur to me, at that time I had no plans on using it for homeschool. However, believing the subjects discussed and the overall way Lacey handles those subjects, I decided to include ‘The Reason’ in our core texts for both Junior and Senior High School. Attached to this decision was the intention to follow this up with ‘The Mystery’.

As per our goal, we’ve completed ‘The Reason’ and are now moving through ‘The Mystery.’

These books were also chosen because of similarities between my own journey and that of Lacey’s. I think most people who’ve walked through darkness and pick this book up would find some form of consolation.

Those who haven’t receive an open window into a world of brokenness they may not fully understand or know little about. I ran an open discussion per chapter, which inspired productive and passionate dialogue between, and with my two older homeschoolers. Key learning areas include music appreciation and PD.H.PE. Each book raises topics that provide for a holistic lesson on physical development, mental health, boundaries and relationships.

3. Explore the World of Man-Made Wonders (Text by Simon Adams &  Illustrations by Stephen Biesty)

The journey we took together here wasn’t dull. We even managed to link in Matt Damon’s movie, ‘The Great Wall.’ Simon Adams and Stephen Biesty have created an illustrative tour which moves from the leaning Tower of Pisa, to the Pyramids onto St. Basil’s Cathedral, in Russia.

Add in a tablet and Google Earth, this activity became a whirl wind tour of some pretty cool sites. I think the only sour note for our homeschoolers, was having to the book work after it.

4. The Rime of The Ancient Mariner (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

Similar to the previous book, I linked in a movie. This to me was a natural progression. The content of the poem can be seen reflected in The Pirates of The Caribbean: The Curse of The Black Pearl. This might be news to some, but I guarantee you, there’s got to be a link somewhere.

Coleridge’s poem is big enough to be a small book. A very small book, of course, but a book none the less. If you have never read it, or are looking for an easier way to teach it, I used a PDF version – which can be sourced [here]. The length isn’t big enough to be a problem. I used three copies and lead from my treasured Penguin book of Coleridge Poems.

Finally, I added the book of Numbers to the schedule for this term. We’ve pulled through it and loved every second of it; made even more insightful thanks to John Calvin’s Commentary, a bit of Sun Tzu and some material from Charles Spurgeon.

All of which, while dated, still find traction in the connection between relevance, rubber and road.  Some of which I discussed in a somewhat well received (for me and my stats anyway) post called, Orderly Disorder: The Book of Numbers & Sun Tzu’s Five Pitfalls of a General.


Related reading:

Our Current Read & Discuss List (The 2017 Autumn Edition)
Our Current Read & Discuss Lists (The 2016 [Fashionably Late] Spring Edition)
Our Current Read & Discuss Lists (The 2016 Fashionable Winter Edition)
Tandem Reading & Technology

As the great 19th Century preacher, Charles Spurgeon wrote, ‘Life is a conflict, & thou needest battle music’ [i]. In addition to this, I recently came across a fitting quote from Ludwig Von Mises:

‘a [creative] genius is precisely a man or a woman who defies all schools and rules, who deviates from the traditional roads of routine and opens up new paths through land inaccessible before.’ [ii]

So, with these words in mind, here’s the top October additions to my high rotation, “A-List” on Spotify.

1. ‘Hard Love’, Need to Breathe

Need to Breathe hadn’t really caught me ear beyond a song or two. Hard Love did. The song, also the album’s namesake, overtakes most tunes in the CCM market at the moment. Toby Mac’s album, ‘This is Not a Test’ still holds first place and if that’s the new standard by which artists within the Christian contemporary music arena are measured, then Need To Breathe nail it.

2. ‘Rot’, Lacey Sturm

Lacey and her husband, Josh, team up on an album that makes my top five albums of 2016. Lacey has the ability to communicate God’s message of grace through an art filled with scars, mostly visible only to those who wear the same, or similar. What’s important about this is that the past doesn’t dominate. Jesus is Victor and that’s exactly what is pierced into each well-considered lyric. For those who just hear and rock to the music, the guitar work is mostly rhythmic, the bass line strong and the drums consistent. What I like about ‘Rot’ (and the album in general) is that Josh’s guitar work is on par with Lacey’s vocals. The former compliments the latter.

(Related post: Review: ‘The Reason’, Lacey Sturm)

3. ‘Die Tezte Fahrt (The Last Ride)’, Santiano

I’ve listened to some European folk bands before, but among them German band, Santiano rules all. My German is rudimentary and needs improving. What better way to do that than with one of the coolest songs of the genre. The Last Ride reminds me of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It’s weighty, reflective and melodic. The violin solo, baritone harmonies and solid chorus make this song. Of special note is the chorus and it’s final two sentences:

“Die letzte Fahrt Du bleibst uns Freund und Kamerad”
(The last ride. You will stay with us friend and comrade)

4. ‘Phoenix’ – Unikron Remix, We Are Leo

We Are Leo seem to have a better run with remixes than they do with their conventional songs. Two things make this song and the band itself appealing. First, the lyrics, melody and depth of imagery. Second, is the fact that the band isn’t afraid to expand on what they’ve already created. The remix of Phoenix is reminiscent of the synth keys used by Styx and Rush. The song itself lends to the early Christian use of the Phoenix as a symbol of the resurrection and future hope that the resurrection of Jesus Christ brings.

5. ‘The River’,  Jordan Feliz

For a Gospel song, or Gospel music in general, it’s difficult to break free from the standard Christian Radio friendly status quo that streams out from CCM (Christian Contemporary Music). Worship music is blurred together in sound and repetitive lyrics are wrapped in bad theology with a beat. Jordan Feliz clears that Charybdis. Following in the footsteps of Crowder, vocally, Feliz stands out. The style could easily find an ear on mainstream secular radio as it would in a church. In that light, Feliz stands among the many who cross borders with their art. I like everything about this song.

6. ‘Karate’,  Baby Metal

Rock/metal opera is a genre that doesn’t get a lot of mainstream airplay, if any. It’s likely that you haven’t heard of Baby Metal, outside social media. That the band comes from Japan makes their art and music all the more intriguing, it also adds a great deal to their appeal. The music is outstanding, highly professional, and not overly produced. One of the stands outs are the vocals. Lyrically, the theme of ‘Karate’ is played out in the video, and has my vote. This said, as for the rest of the album, I’m still trying to figure it out.

7. ‘Higher’,  Unspoken

This isn’t in my usual taste, as far a musical style goes, but I like the rhythm. Musically, the bass is alive. The harmonies are okay, and the keys light everything else up. Lyrically it’s full of hope and points to a far greater source of hope than anything we as humans can conjure up or invent. I’m a fan of lyrics that speak of this as a lived reality.

8. ‘Bizzare’, Michael Sweet

Quite simply, the vocals, lyrics, tempo, and bass-line are spectacular. All those good things, though, pale in comparison to the precision of the lead guitar. Along side some of Oz Fox’s recent work on the newer Stryper albums, Whitesnake guitarist Joel Hoekstra, gives one of the best melodic lead parts for guitar I’ve heard in recent years. All we need now is a Slash and Sweet collaboration.


Sources:

[i] Spurgeon, C.H. 1883, Flowers From a Puritan’s Garden

[ii] Mises, L. 1945, Bureaucracy Stellar Books, 2014

Note: Thoughts expressed here are my own. I did not receive payment of any kind to review or present these songs.

Lacey Sturm _ The Reason GVL Review 2015Often a book will land in your lap. Then, sometimes you run into it. Unable to avoid the undertow that draws you towards it.

I’d have to say, for me at least, that the latter experience applies to ‘The Reason’.

Lacey Sturm’s story revisits darkened avenues.

‘The Reason’ might look like a standard ‘’rock-star’’ reading. It isn’t.

Sturm’s famous vocal-scream and its raw transition from heart to ear, directs attention to the depth of her pain, prayer and subsequent gratitude. What you hear in her music is what you get in this book; it’s the figurative heart, scarred, but bursting with new life.

Lacey writes:

‘It is brave to trust that the God who gave you life in the first place has a good plan in mind, even when everything around you looks like hell. It is brave to live.[i]

One might rightly say its contents reflect something akin to Cohen’s vision in ‘Anthem’ of how light pierces through the cracks.

Illuminated by an underprivileged and abusive past Sturm pins down connectivity with the broken-hearted, reaching well beyond the realm of safe pulpits and the sanitized pews of the middle class Christian West mindset.

This is theological poetry for the self-styled “damned.”

Much like the autobiographies from Johnny Cash and Brian‘Head’ Welch, Sturm delineates cause, effect and the overarching struggle to simply breathe beyond sin towards forgiveness, through a brokenness unfairly thrust upon them, delivering hope to those of us who can relate.

Like ‘emotional vomit’, lyrics about ‘horrible abuse, if sung honestly, must be screamed…Screaming was my natural response to injustice… When I started writing music with screaming in it, the point was to hit someone back… After God rescued me, however, I found a purpose for my screaming: to speak truth over the lies in people’s hearts. Lies like the ones I believed about myself when I wanted to die….I prayed God would use my voice to scream justice over every lie seeking to destroy the very people he made for great things.[ii]

Sturm, accompanied by beautiful hand drawn bespoke illustrations, unpacks the darkness in order to reveal the light. It’s clear that her words are carefully chosen, a well-considered pre-emptive attempt to prepare most readers for what is ahead.

‘The Reason’ deals with a series of issues including: bullying, parental abandonment, violence, identity issues, depression, poverty, fatherlessness and abuse.

Something that exists as an overarching theme is Lacey’s search for identity, acceptance and freedom. A big part of this is her wrestling with sexual identity, atheism, mistrust of men, confusion, love, and hate for injustice; a quest that fills these pages with more authenticity than some autobiographies twice as long exhaust themselves trying to achieve.

If anything, Lacey’s vulnerability makes her too vulnerable. Yet, what this all suggests is that Sturm is not out to just sell a book or artificially pad her already well supplied fan base.

‘The Reason’ is absent of hype and pretence. It denies any temptation to rely on these staple ingredients so often used in modern appeals to the masses.  It is ‘unassuming in its significance’.

This is evident in one of the most impressive highlights (and there are many), the theological distinction Sturm makes between “awe” and “emotionalism”.

‘There’s a definite sense of awe in the presence of God, and I experienced this most in the worship setting in church. I fell madly in love with experiencing awe. This experience was more than emotion. Something within us resonates when we encounter the sublime in life. C. S. Lewis talks about this feeling of awe in his book The Problem of Pain. In it he describes the word numinous. The numinous is that “thing” we sense or feel that is outside of ourselves.[iii]

Her discourse shifts away from a false euphoric emotionalism in worship towards ‘awe’, adding that there is a ‘difference between relationship with God and the experience of God.’ Lacey is aware of potential unseen dangers with regards to music, further stating:

‘The power of music, with its effect on the soul, is one of the most tangible ways to touch someone’s heart or spirit. I began to be very selective about the music I let into my soul and spirit because of how powerful I knew music could be. Emotions aren’t wrong, but letting them control your life and sway all your decisions can be deceptive and very destructive. I felt myself slip easily back into depression and condescension whenever I listened to certain music.[iv]

As easy as it would have been to slip into this trap, by providing advice like this Lacey evades feeding a narcissistic subculture,  “Christian” or otherwise. Instead her story and reflections that run concomitant with it, present a well thought out chronological narrative of displacement, warning, encouragement and realignment.

In conclusion, ‘The Reason’ is in-part exactly what a fan would expect; commentary complete with  a list of who and what helped that person steer into a musical career, fame and noticeable accomplishments.

However, Sturm’s book is not a chronological drift of what and how to become a rock-star. It is not an all-purpose list, to-be-generally read and followed formula for success.

Lacey points to God as the author of her success with a fierce reminder that God, in Jesus Christ, through His Spirit reaches for us.  That He hears us. Especially our deepest gasps, loneliest sighs and anguish filled groans. Although we may not see it, His gracious grasp is firm, authentic and unmistakable.

As Tolstoy and Barth rendered it, so Lacey Sturm profoundly reminds us of it:

No matter how bad it is, we are, still indeed ‘held firmly above the abyss.[v]


Sources:

[i] Sturm, L. 2014, The Reason: How I Discovered a Life Worth Living Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 62).

[ii] Ibid, pp.77-82

[iii] Ibid, p.134

[iv] Ibid, p. 132

[v] Tolstoy’s A Confession & Karl Barth: ‘It is given an answer from the cross of Christ. The serious and terrible nature of human corruption, the depth of the abyss into which man is about to fall as the author of it, can be measured by the fact that the love of God could react and reply to this event only by His giving, His giving up, of Jesus Christ Himself to overcome and remove it and in that way to redeem man, fulfilling the judgment upon it in such a way that the judge allowed Himself to be judged and caused the man of sin to be put to death in His own person.’

(Church Dogmatics: A Selection With Introduction by Helmut Gollwitzer, Kindle Ed.)

(Disclosure: Unpaid review)

© Rod Lampard, 2015


Related reading:

Unassuming Significance: The Reason {An Introduction}

Industrious {…Or, Just Running After One’s Hat}

Self doubt and/or limitations inherited from an abusive past do not mean that you are incapable of meeting resources and ability, with ambition.

‘An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered’ [i]

“I tried to find religion…”

When I reached out, they just cut and ran. No money, only ashes; no status, only trouble; a no-name from a fatherless family tree.

Nothing they could leach from. Deemed ungifted; nothing they could market from.

So they shut the doors, turned the lights out and pretended not to know.

I tried to find religion…

Instead…God found me.

‘My imperfect prayer,
our unkempt words,
our wandering hearts,
our broken selves,
our arrogant thoughts,  
our noiseless words,
my eyes are toward you,
O God, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave us not defenceless
and…
may we pass safely by’
(Psalm 141 paraphrased)


Source

[i] Chesterton, G.K. All Things Considered, ‘On Running After One’s Hat’ Kindle Ed. p.41

Song: We As Human {featuring Lacey Sturm}, ‘Take the Bullets Away’

1.

2.

3.

“…thank you for the Mercy Tree”

Having fronted the band Flyleaf for around ten years, leaving in 2012, Lacey Sturm (née Mosley) released her book, The Reason, in October this year. As with the devotion and profound gratitude Lacey communicates through her abilities as a songwriter and vocalist. Her testimony resonates.

Outside of glowing Amazon reviews, other appraisals of her book seem difficult to come by.

One quasi-critical review I did locate stated:

‘I salute her for her love for Jesus, her optimism and her bravery to share her past…I appreciate very much her willingness to bare her soul, praising God for his redemption and encouraging others to find peace in Jesus. However, I do feel that Lacey didn’t hold her mother accountable for her behavior by repeatedly saying she did the best she could. Bad choices and neglect should still be recognized as such.’
‘This book was so dreary and oppressive and sad that I just couldn’t finish it.’ (source)

The review is mixed with both reviewers stating that they got the point of her book, and hope it finds those who need to hear its message. However, they found it too difficult to finish. Citing the reasons as being heavy content and their own context. Fair enough.

In recent months, though, no critical review has made me want to read a book more than this has. My wife and I look forward to passing it between each other over Christmas, during the summer break.

‘The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my  beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.’
(1 Corinthians 15:56-58)