entertainment & belief go heart to heart

The Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum… remembered?

With the release of the latest entry in the Jason Bourne series, Jason Bourne, it is a timely time to revisit the most famous of amnesiac spies. You know, just in case *you* have forgotten who *he* is and why his stories are both interesting and relevant to our present global crises, even if the latest instalment of the franchise may not be living up to the quality of its predecessors. I’m going to jump around a bit and discuss spoilers if you’ve not seen the original trilogy. 

The trilogy, which began in 2002 with The Bourne Identity, invites us to consider the role and nature of intelligence services in our world. In the wake of September 11, 2001, almost 15 years ago, the three (and now four) films depict an advanced and highly trained intelligence service agent who has lost his identity and finds himself, in addition to being highly resourceful, in possession of a very special set of martial arts, surveillance and evasion skills. Jason Bourne’s goal is to find out who he is – his search for his identity is a search for his story and his place in the world, particularly in international affairs. He doesn’t know who he is, and we’re not really sure either. Is he a good guy or a bad guy? As the audience, we have found ourselves asking the same questions of intelligence services over the last decade…

Jason Bourne follows the dots discovers he’s up against his former employers – handlers from a top secret black bag operation called Treadstone. He is an assassin, the product of a system that has attempted to dehumanize him to slavishly follow orders to undertake certain tasks, namely assassinations and other off the record activities which as we learn in Ultimatum Bourne himself believed he would be saving American lives. By the time we reach Ulitmatum, This system is portrayed as extending tendrils all over the globe, a kind of   omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient, technological god. Nevertheless it appears this system plays a much more complex role in world affairs than he may have been lead to believe. As we discover in Supremacy.

At the end of Identity, Conklin says Bourne messed up when we as the audience know they messed up. They didn’t count on his humanity, his conscience, they couldn’t remove his humanity, to leave a child without a father. Bourne pays the price for desisting from the mission, effectively dying the death (metaphorically speaking) his intended target was supposed to have. But before Bourne can pry more information from Conklin and the various agents and players involved, Conklin is killed.

In a sense, Bourne, however he came to be in this situation also finds himself a victim of the intelligence service which achieves its goals by dehumanizing its subjects. But in Identity, Maria is moved with compassion to help him discover and recover his humanity and his compass, which as he recalls was not lost, only suppressed… while Conklin says Bourne fails because his job was deception not assassination, Cooper failed to remove to his humanity.

But ultimately in Ultimatum, we learn that Bourne volunteered. He volunteered for what he thought was an honorable noble and patriotic task. To serve his country. To save American lives. In Supremacy, Bourne further discovers how these activities extend beyond saving American lives to meddling in international political and economic affairs.

Thus, Bourne’s amnesia could represent something of a loss of American conscience, morality and leadership in the world, a fallen patriotism, that has committed questionable acts in the name of patriotism. And his journey of discovery is a sobering one. Now, patriotism itself need not be a bad thing or an evil to be repressed if wisely lived out, if patriotism is a force for actual good, rather than subjective good. Some people will criticize such ideas in movies using phrases like liberal propaganda, anti-American, not patriotic. And Damon’s Green Zone may have copped some similar criticism, highlighting American intelligence or political failures in the events leading up to the Iraq war. 

Let history decide. Right or wrong, propaganda or not, these movies are confronting: while we probably prefer to not think about what goes on in the complex world of national security and intelligence services, we equally don’t like the idea of admitting our mistakes. We prefer to justify our actions. 

The one thing that is common to all of us as we watch these kinds of stories unfold, not only on the big screen but as public and private failures are revealed, is that none of us likes to have our misdeeds exposed. Jesus knew the heart of man when he said:

“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”

He was first speaking about the fractured relationship between man and God, but his general assessment of humanity rings true with our experience. But with the truth, with reflection and remorse comes the opportunity to come clean and make a new start, whether it be in our relationship with God, with those closest to us or in the public sphere. Those who come clean with their dirty laundry have the opportunity to admit wrongdoing, repent, ask forgiveness, perhaps re-establish trust and transparency and progress, for the good of all concerned.

Now the world is more fractured than it was when the Bourne series started; we’ve seen more terror and violence and bloodshed. All the more, we need to act with morality, with compassion and with humility. All the more, we need to be redeemed from the private and public lies that bind us. For those seeking personal transformation, the Gospel says that even though we have fallen, the One who knows us better than we know ourselves offers us renewal – a new identity – in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Rather than hiding and running in the shadows.

Sounds I liked in 2015

It is well past that time when bloggers everywhere compile the soundtrack for their year. Here are some of the musical sounds I liked in 2015.

If you like any of the artists listed, please support them by purchasing their music. It helps many of them make more music.


Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors – Here We Go

The music makes you feel good, makes you feel understood, like you’re not alone, not a rolling stone, not the only one on the road.

This fun one from Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors landed late last year, ahead of the full album launch in January, and it opens up our list. Music goes with us everywhere. As the language of the emotions, it has power to entertain us, to comfort and to say stuff you can’t say in words. That’s pretty much the theme of the first song here, and that’s what this list is all about.

Animal Evolve // Neulore

While this album was released over a year ago (and recorded a couple of years before that) it features some of my favourite sounds for the year. Neulore’s folk rock vocals haunt the mythic story-telling and ruminations of human nature. My favorite tracks are In the Orchard and Don’t Shy from the Light but The Gathering Chant makes me dream of home.

Of This I’m Sure // Jenny & Tyler

The title track of the new album from Jenny & Tyler showcases everything I like about the duo’s music and direction. I melt every time I hear it. There are so many good things to dwell on and savour in this album. The world needs promises like Walk With You. Check out my quick review here.

The Once and Future Carpenter // The Avett Brothers

We yearn for purpose and for our lives to have meaning and significance. While I believe we ultimately get this from God, The Avett Brothers tell a story of a wanderer, searching for purpose amid the fleeting mystery and absurdity of the human journey, a journey we share in our brief time. Yes, we really are all in this together. As the album goes, we all live and we all die; in that sense, we’re the same (Live and Die). We struggle with our cold hearts (Winter in my Heart). Lots to like here in the musical and philosophical crafting. I also liked February Seven.

Cold Answer // Matthew Perryman Jones

The only thing wrong with this album is that it was just too short! It’s impossible to listen to too much MPJ, who paints scene with sounds and crafts lyrics that feel like you’re listening in on someone’s deepest thoughts, struggles and dreams. Then you realize, if you’re honest, you’ve been there too.

Monterey // Milk Carton Kids

As is so often the case in creating memorable music, less is almost always more. This guitar duo do so much with their semi-classical folk guitar vibe, James Taylor and Simon and Garfunkel styles. So literary are their lyrics, every song feels like a chapter of a book. It’s two guys singing and playing guitars. So simple. So captivating.

Making Ghosts // Great Peacock

Sit back and relax to the catchy tunes of this folk pop that would make a rocking indie sound track. Whether you’re a Desert Lark searching for your song again, or longing for security and peace in Take Me to the Mountain, Great Peacock gives us hints of a higher story.

Far Kingdom // The Gray Havens

I must confess I didn’t get to listening the whole way through the entire album but in Far Kingdom, The Gray Havens tell the story of the Christian hope of redemption and future joy in the style of a folk fairytale. Critics of religion call belief in God wish fulfilment. But if the dream is real, it would change everything.

Andrew Peterson // The Dark Before the Dawn

Andrew Peterson invites us to imagine our lives as part of a big story, a story of the universe, cosmic in scope and grandeur, that is being played out in our day to day existence, in trials, in joy, in the grace of God; an existence that may look dark and difficult at times but in the grand scheme of things is on the verge of being changed dramatically. Two tracks here: The Dark Before the Dawn, and Be Kind to Yourself, exemplify Peterson’s ability to create art that is both cosmic in scope and deeply personal.

Didn’t He Ramble? // Glen Hansard

Themes of love, grace and mercy saturate the new album from Glen Hansard giving the album a hopeful optimistic tone, sweet sounds to the brokenhearted and humbled. Highlights include… well, all of it but I like Her Mercy, Grace Beneath the Pines, Wedding Ring, Winning Streak.

Then Came the Morning // The Lone Bellow

Then Came The Morning sounds like a happy uplifting song, the dawn of a new day. When viewed as the album’s opening scene, the final track I Let You Go though, as it is in life, reveals much sadness veiled by apparent happiness. Diners is crazy good fun musically and on another level, empty. On this their second album, The Lone Bellow build on the poetry and energy of their first, and experiment with new instrumental sounds giving them a chance to breathe. I also like Marietta on this album and hearing Brian and Kanene leading on Watch Over Us and Call to War respectively.

All Sons & Daughters // All Sons & Daughters

Saturated with humble, adoring, Psalm-like lyrics, All Sons & Daughters self-titled album opens with a reflective piece on the goodness and character of God with You Will Remain. The duo’s tighter sound, deeper lyrics, and expanded sound canvas is probably best heard in Your Glory & My Good. Just beautiful.

I would be a fool, if I could be made new, come ruin, come ridicule.


For the Taking // Elenowen

Husband and wife duo’s harmonies hit smooth folk pop sounds on a canvas of acoustic guitar, electric licks, organs and strings.

There’s music that reaches where you’re at. There’s music that soothes the soul. There’s music that revels in the pity or sadness of the moment. And then there’s Elenowen who make you want to want to move onwards and upwards, from the present moment to some place better.

For the Taking explores themes of faithfulness through adversity & disappointment, while always looking forward, whatever the circumstances. Rolling Stone Country’s Andrew Leahy says it bridges the gap between seventies folk rock and Americana. That’s quite a gap. Whatever it is, I liked it, particularly the tasteful and judicious use of electric guitars for impact and color in an often melancholy & soulful album.

Some lyrics I liked:

The Place from Where I Fell – building walls behind every step in taking, so I can’t turn back around and doubt my destination.

Saddest Songs – Brother you’re in a bad way. Is there nothing we can say now to bring you home? …the saddest songs always find their way to you, don’t mistake the lonely sound they make for truth.

Losing the Lonely – long shot, we went against the odds in a game you’ll never win if you never go all in. it just took a little time, all I’m holding out is mine. First thing I see in the morning, first dream I have at night…

One by One – “I could never do this without you, an open sky without the blue, I’m not kidding around when I say I need you, but baby, it’s true. ” Lyrics here are so simple and yet so heartfelt, with kind of a soul ballad vibe.

Assorted // Andrew Ripp

Browsing through Spotify yielded some sweet sounds. Andrew Ripp produces some good solid piano-centric pop/rock. Here’s a sweet romantic song (yes, I’m not 100% rational) on the essence of faithfulness and desire in love.

When you fall in love
You lose control
You can’t hang on and you can’t let go
When you find the one
You hold on tight
You weather every storm
Till the sun shines
Even when it hurts, there’s no regret
Every breath you give, is one you get
When you fall in love

There’s also a wonderful live Americana-flavoured (slide guitar?) version here too, which I might even like more than the album recording:

His voice would sound great in any number of genres. Check out Andrew’s superior cover of Justin Timberlake’s Mirrors. 

The original JT version almost sounds too nicey-nicey by comparison:

A Hole in my Heart from the new self-titled album was a late arrival but I’m still listening through this album.



Compiling your holiday playlist? Try some of these.

Holiday Mixtape // Nick Flora & Stacy Lantz

Blood Oranges in the Snow //  Over the Rhine

All My Christmases // Jillian Edwards

A Charlie Brown Christmas // Vince Guaraldi Trio

Our Family Christmas // The Henningsens

Prepare Him Room // Sovereign Grace Music

Joy – An Irish Christmas // Keith & Kristyn Getty

O Christmas // Gungor

A Very We Are the Monks Christmas // We Are The Monks

Advent & Christmas 2015 // The Many

Miscellaneous tracks

How Many Kings // Downhere 

Here With Us // Joy Williams

Love Came Down at Christmas // Jenny & Tyler

Please support the artists you like by buying their music at iTunes, Google Play and Amazon.

Jesus, Joy of the Highest Heaven (A Children’s Carol) // Keith & Kristyn Getty

Keith and Kristyn Getty have written many wonderful hymns over the years, including The Power of the Cross and Speak O Lord. Keith co-authored In Christ Alone with Stuart Townend.

Last year, we came across this lovely little children’s carol reflecting the simple message of the Gospel – the good news of God redeeming man through Jesus – in a way that I reckon is big enough for adults too.

Jesus, joy of the highest heaven,
Born as a little baby
Under a wondrous star.
Like us, crying He takes His first breath
Held by His mother, helpless
Close to her beating heart.
Jesus, laid in a lowly manger,
Facing a world of dangers,
Come to turn me a stranger
Into a child of God.

Jesus, King of the highest heaven
Learning to take His first steps,
That He might bring us life.
Like us, knowing our smiles and sorrows,
He showed the way to follow,
A way that is true and right.
Jesus, take away every darkness,
Steady my simple footsteps
That I might in your goodness
Live as a child of God.

The shape and function of the Christmas celebration in modern Western society may ebb and flow but the message of Jesus – the offer of new life, grounded in the grace and goodness of God – is a message that is always relevant, always necessary and always worth celebrating. A message I hope and pray my children will embrace as they grow up.

Santa Baby is a bit TMI – Holiday Mixtape // Nick Flora & Stacy Lantz

Four tracks of chilled, witty & poetic holiday music on this new EP from two talented singer/songwriters Nick Flora & Stacy Lantz. Holiday Mixtape, a meta-holiday-music song, is everything holiday music should be while affectionately poking gentle fun at everything holiday music can be. Flora & Lantz sing that the best holiday music makes you melancholy and this is the vibe of the remainder of the album. Evergreen is a beautiful song about wishing for the renewal and redemption sung about in so many carols to come and fill one’s life.


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