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JFH Staff Blog | July 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014

10 Years Later - Five Iron Frenzy, 'The End Is Here'

When it comes to Five Iron Frenzy, I was about as late-blooming of a fan as you can possibly get. My experience with them was as follows:

I started going to church in the year 2000, and along with my newfound interest in Jesus, I was given some Christian music to listen to (because secular music was a sin, right?). For Christmas that year, the family that was bringing me to church gave me this compilation called Simply Impossible, which featured bands like Skillet, John Reuben, Earthsuit, ill harmonics, PAX217, The Elms, Philmore, and an interesting choice of song by Five Iron Frenzy ("Solidarity"). The song caught my interest, mainly because I found it interesting that there was a Christian salsa band on this compilation. Well, I got a chance to listen to All The Hype That Money Can Buy, and realized that was the only song of that nature on the album. They were a ska band! And I hated the entire album. Yep. I hated it.

Time went by, and I heard a few other songs by Five Iron that weren't so bad. Then on a road trip with a couple friends, someone popped in that CD, and it was like it was something completely new. Every song was simply amazing. How could this be? I don't know, but something had changed, and I liked it. Then in early 2003 (or possibly late 2002, I forget), Five Iron Frenzy announced their impending break-up. But...but...I just started liking them! This sent me on a mission: I needed all their albums. So I set out to buy all their studio albums, and I bought tickets to go see their final show in Kansas City (where I bought the remaining albums I didn't have).

Now, this is a 10 Years Later blog, and Five Iron's then-last album, The End Is Near, officially released in 2003 at their live shows. But in 2004, it was released to the public in grand fashion as The End Is Here. They gave it everything they possibly could. First off, all of the thirteen original songs were just stellar. "Cannonball" started it off in a blaze; songs like "At Least I'm Not Like All Those Other Old Guys," "Wizard Needs Food, Badly," and "That's How The Story Ends" showcased their classic sense of humor (the last of the three summing up many of their older funny songs); and they showed their reverent side with "It Was Beautiful," "Something Like Laughter," and "On Distant Shores." It was truly one of their best pieces of work. And somehow, they managed to improve on it when they took The End Is Near and transformed it into The End Is Here. For starters, "The Cross of St. Andrew" was a short, albeit excellent bonus track. Then of course there was the second disc with the recording of their then-final show, jam-packed with fan favorites and hilarious hijinks. And there was so much in that recording, they even added a half hour's worth of bonus recorded material (just a lot of talking and a few versions of "Pootermobile" if I remember correctly) to the very end of disc one. Yes, Five Iron truly loved/loves their fans, and they wanted to give us their all for that dual album. It was a super classy way to go out, and I listened to that album like there was no tomorrow. I know they just put out a new album this past November, and Engine of a Million Plots is solid for sure, but if you ask me, it's gonna take a lot to top The End Is Here. Now that Five Iron's discography is on Spotify, you have little excuse to revisit this album if you haven't recently.

-- Scott Fryberger

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

YOU Almighty -- Being His Hands and Feet

Today, I was reminded of the 2003 movie "Bruce Almighty;" I thought about one of the messages the film focuses on and how it related to all of our individual Christian walks.

We live in a time where it's easier now more than ever to plug into a cause that can change the world. I was listening to Remedy Drive's new album "Commodity" and thinking about how vocalist David Zach has expressed his hope to impact and make a change in the serious problem of human trafficking in our world. It's a very real and disturbing practice still going on today. The band's goal with the album is to raise awareness and help aid in the fight against it (Zach has even paired with a ministry called The Exodus Road that goes to the frontlines of this problem and tries to rescue women from slavery). It's a passion of Zach's and if you get the privilege of hearing him speak about it in person, it makes you want to rally in support and join him.

In this age, it's even easier to voice our opinions on what we think others should be doing. Whether it's social media or through a blog or magazine article, just about anyone can say anything that someone else will see or hear. I've heard ministries beg for just financial aid while other opinion-sharers have condemned people fir "just throwing money" at a problem and not doing anything else about it. These opinion-sharers don't always take into account that these people may not be called to do anything other than that; some have families and careers and may not be called by God to drop everything and go. The financial support may be all Jesus is moving them to do.

But that's where "Bruce Almighty" popped in my mind.

In the film, Bruce Nolan--played by Jim Carrey--is an aspiring news reporter who would love a news anchor position someday (think Ron Burgundy set in 2003 with much less pretention). His rival is Steve Carell's Evan Baxter who is a bit of a pompous jerk who seems to easily get the things Bruce only dreams of and fights so hard for. Bruce's girlfriend Grace (I don't think her name choice was a coincidence) encourages him to be thankful to God for what he has and, in one particular crucial scene, Bruce says, "God is a mean kid sitting on an ant hill with a magnifying glass and I'm the ant. He could fix my life in five minutes if He wanted to, but He'd rather burn off my feelers and watch me squirm!" After some other blasphemous remarks, God meets with Bruce and gives him the job of "god" for a short time so he can see what it's like, and Bruce learns first-hand how selfish humans are, how frustrating free will is in His position, and how God's role is no picnic.

Near the end of the film, Bruce learns that we're here on this earth not for ourselves but for others. Our society is very me-centric and it's easy for any of us (myself included) to fall prey to that mindset. By the end of the movie, God physically leaves Bruce to clean up the messes he made and Bruce says, "But wait! What if I need you? What if I have questions?" to which God laughs and says, "That's your problem, Bruce. That's everybody's problem. You keep looking UP!" It was a controversial exchange because it kind of sounds like the film's saying we shouldn't seek God, but the director, a professing believer, later explained that the point of the story was that we're supposed to be God's hands and feet to each other. There's even a montage in the film where Bruce is seen doing nice things for people and helping others out--something he'd never done before.
 


It's no secret we live busy lives. If our families aren't demanding our time, it's our jobs, our teachers, our managers, our coaches, our record labels, our bandmates, our friends, etc. Sometimes it just feels like God's another person demanding our time. But we're called to help the widows and orphans, the needy, the forsaken. God wants us to seek HIM first and to put everything else second. BUT we're all called to different things. Not everyone is called to be a missionary to Haiti. Not everyone is called to stay home and watch sports all Sunday. Not everyone is called to be a pastor. Not everyone is called to be a deacon. Not everyone is called to lead a Sunday school class, and not everyone is called it sit in on a Sunday school class. It's our responsibility to seek God for direction in how we're best to use our time. If we're all part of the Body of Christ, we all have different roles to play. For some of us, it may be to send money to HELP that missionary in Haiti. For others, it may be to go and help out there with their bare hands.

But whatever that call is, we need to heed it. Just don't be discouraged if others are telling you what you need to do. They might not know what God has in store for you, but what THEY think YOU should do. And that doesn't matter. Only what God wants for you is what matters. But whatever it may be, it'll be an expression of His hands and His feet. And I pray He makes it clear to you (to us!). Just don't give up seeking Him.

- John DiBiase

**Note: the blog title "YOU Almighty -- Being His Hands and Feet" is in no way meant to be disrespectful. The idea is a play on the film's title, since it kind of sparked the topic, and is to imply that YOU / WE are to be HIS hands and feet... like Bruce was instructed in the film.**

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