Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hope and Prophetic Imagination

Since 'hope' has become a bit of a buzz word in this world in which we live, I was struck by these words on the subject from Walter Brueggemann's The Prophetic Imagination. He is basically looking at what the Old Testamen prophets, in the tradition of Moses, have to offer those of us seeking to be a prophetic voice today. For Brueggemann, true hope is truly subversive to the status quo. Okay, onto the quote:

Speech about hope cannot be explanatory and scientifically argumentative; rather, it must be lyrical in the sense that it touches the hopeless person at many different points. More than that, however, speech about hope must be primally theological, which is to say that it must be in the language of covenant between a personal God and a community. Promise belongs to the world of trusting speech and faithful listening. It will not be reduced to the "cool" language of philosophy or the private discourse of psychology. It will finally be about God and us, about his faithfulness that vetoes our faithlessness. Those who would be prophetic need to embrace that absurd practice and that subversive activity. (p. 65, italics mine)
Into what and whom do we place our hope? Brueggemann insists that hope grows in the most unlikely places, places of exile and anguish, and it can only come from the one who stands in freedom from the restraints of the cosmos, the Lord God Almighty. It's a beautiful thing.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

I'm a Pastor!

As of about an hour ago, I am officially the Pastor of Bretton Woods Covenant Church in Lansing, MI. My first day in the office will be Monday, February 9 and my first Sunday will be February 15. It's incredible. Marcie and I (and a whole lot of our friends and family) have been praying for this moment for years, and now it's here. It's surreal, it's exciting, and it's sacred. I can't wait to get started. So my days as a stay at home dad are numbered, and I will enjoy them to the best of my ability.

It's truly humbling to be living into this call, a call which I first sensed a little more than 10 years ago and now am able to realize as the pastor of this wonderful little church in Lansing. I'd refer you to the website, but it's not currently functional. I think the pastor should get to fixing that right away.

So thank you to all who pray for us. We sense that God has made this happen, and we know many of you have prayed for just that. We look forward to life in Lansing, and thank God that it's only an hour away from where we live now.

Now it is with great enthusiasm that I now say "Go Lugnuts!" (the single-A baseball team in Lansing), and with slightly less enthusiasm, yet endless respect for Tom Izzo, I say "Go Spartans?!?" I'll have to work on that.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Washington Adventures

We had a great time in Washington this weekend. It was an adventure: flooding, an overcrowded Motel 6 in Centralia, Bob almost stuck in Portland, the Country Cousin, Vis almost stuck in Portland, the bowling alley u-turn debacle, Devyn and Ryan getting married...the list goes on. And it was all a blast. Here are some pics to highlight the adventure. We flew in on Thursday morning, and arrived in Seattle at about 11am Pacific time. We decided to spend the day there before heading down to Centralia (and the floods). We did fairly typical touristy stuff, since it was our first time in Seattle.

We went up in the space needle, and this is what we saw...

...and this...

...and of course, the tip of the needle itself (taken from within the needle's observatory deck)...

...and a helicopter took off down below.

Very nice. After the needle, we headed down to Pike's Place, fruit, various locally produced goods. It was cool. Touristy, but not in a bad way.

If I could kiss an ugly fish every day, I would...

...I'll consider rotating this picture someday, but for now, you're gonna have to sit sideways.

We went to Tumwater Falls on Friday. We couldn't get into the park itself because of all the flooding, but we were able to observe. Check out this current. I wouldn't want to fall in, that's for sure.

Once again, please sit sideways.

And alas, there was a wedding. I was honored to be part of the ceremony, and all my ushering practice paid off. I think I did a spot on job, and I even got to seat the mother of the groom. Take that, groomsmen!

The whole motley crue.

The happy couple.

Me and the Vis.

...the other happy couple.

We had a blast, but we were ready to get home to Addison. Almost four days without her was enough.

And if you're ever in Centralia, WA, be sure to stop at the Country Cousin, and ask about the oil painting of Burt Reynolds. It's a doozy.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Headed to Washington

Marcie and I will be in Washington (the state, not the district) for the next few days. First to Seattle, then to Centralia. Our dear friends Ryan and Devyn will be wed there on Saturday, and I will be an usher. I take my role very seriously, and have been practicing at local restaurants. Aside from a few awkward glances and that one guy who punched me in the face, people seem to be satisfied with my ushering skillz (yes, that's skillz, not skills). Maybe I can get some more practice in at the airports on the way...

And for those who take listmaking as seriously as I, there was a glaring omission on my top albums list. I mistakenly omitted the wonderful album "Parc Avenue" by a band called Plants & Animals from the list. I would put it at number eight. There, I feel better now.

Lately I've been spending a lot of time with Addison, enjoying reading Walter Brueggemann's classic "The Prophetic Imagination," and working toward preparing a sermon on 1 Corinthians 3. The peace of Christ be with you all.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

My Favorite Albums | 2008

Happy New Year! It's 2009, and it's a perfect time to think back on 2008. One of my favorite things to do every year is to look back at the great new music I discovered each year. '08 was an eventful year and a good one (for a lot of reasons), and these albums provided a good hunk of my soundtrack for the year that will be remembered as ought eight.

14-15 - The Best Albums that were released in 2008 but don't really count as '08 albums having been disqualified due to various and obvious violations of common law qualifications for a 2008 Album:

15. Colin Meloy - Colin Meloy Sings LIVE! - Released in '08, but recorded live in '06, before Meloy's band, the Decemberists released their masterpiece "The Crane Wife." It's too old and too 'live' to count in a list of 2008 albums, but it's wonderful; the work of a master songsmith stripped down to naught but his sweet guitar and articulate vocals.

14. Danielson - Trying Hartz - This two disc, career spanning collection of material from the Danielson Famile, Brother Danielson and DanielsonShip is a must own for silly people like me who've been meaning to "get into" Danielson for years, but didn't know where to start. There's no new material here, but there is some previously unreleased live stuff, I believe.

1-13 - The 2008 albums which qualify as legitimate 2008 albums which I listened to, liked, and ranked in order based on how much I liked them:

13. My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges - MMJ is a good rock and roll band. I really liked their 2006 release, "Z," and this was a worthy follow up.

12. The Submarines - Honeysuckle Weeks - This duo sings that song from the iPod commercial: "Every day we wake up, choose love, choose light..." The album is catchy, quirky and interesting. It's a perfect album for a sunny day.

11. The Bridges - Limits of the Sky - Everybody knows I'm a sucker for family bands: The Partridge Family (ha!), The Danielson Famile, Hanson (LOL), The Jonas Brothers (tee-hee), Chevelle, etc. The Bridges rise above 'family as gimmick' and just make good music. It's Americana/Folk/Pop done right.

10. Beck - Modern Guilt - When I heard that Beck was collaborating with DJ Danger Mouse on this release, I figured it would be absolutely 'off the chain.' I was a bit underwhelmed by the results. It's a solid album, for sure, but I expected more. Maybe it'll grow on me in 2009.

9. Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst - I was underwhelmed by this one as well. It's not as consistent as his best efforts ("Lifted..." and "I'm Wide Awake..."), but there are certainly some gems, like "Lenders in the Temple." It's hard when someone's set the bar so high for themselves.

8. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive - Straight up down and dirty rock n' roll out of Minnesota's twin cities. Somehow, the lyrical style reminds me of David Bazan (Pedro the Lion), though the music is far different. The Hold Steady are just great rock n' roll storytellers.

7. Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs - I love how Death Cab continues to stretch themselves artistically even after achieving ridiculous amounts of critical and financial success. These guys are doing something right. If it weren't for the lame mathematical metaphor of "Long Division," this album may have been a notch higher on the list.

6. She & Him - Volume 1 - Thanks to Paste Magazine for picking this #1 and reminding me that M. Ward did something this year. His "Post-War" album is one of my favorite of the past few years, and this collaboration with actress/singer/songwriter Zooey Deschanel seems a perfect match. This album goes down easy, and I mean that as a compliment.

5. Sigur Ros - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust - This album actually dropped down my list as the year went on. After the first few listens, I was convinced it was one of my favorite albums of all time, let alone 2008. I was taken aback by how different it was from previous albums, and I loved it. Yet as I get used to "new" Sigur Ros, I still like it, but I remember 'old' Sigur Ros with greater affection. I have to be honest; I'll probably like anything they put out. They're simply great.

4. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago - Possibly the most hyped album of 2008 by the indie crowd, and with good reason. It's a great album. It brings together two of my favorite genres, folk and atmospheric indie rock, in a way I've never heard. It could well be the quintessential 'winter' album. I'm not sure what that means, but it feels true to me when I listen to it this winter.

3. The Tallest Man on Earth - Shallow Grave - He's from Sweden, and he's called The Tallest Man on Earth. Being a 6'9" Swedish-American, it seems that there must be some cosmic forces drawing me to listen to his music. Whatever the role of the cosmos in the process, I absolutely love this album. I'm fairly certain that I will be able to listen to it hundreds of times without tiring of it, as there will always be another metaphor to unpack or a turn of phrase to deconstruct. He's an old-school finger picker on both guitar and banjo, and he sings with conviction.

2. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes - "White Winter Hymnal" is my daughter's new favorite song...brilliant. It's odd to hear my 2 year old singing about little heads falling in the snow, but it's cool. This album is incredible. It gets better with every listen. It's as smooth as butter, obviously influenced by Brian Wilson yet utterly creative. This album somehow seems to equally embody all four seasons, as though it could have come from a California summer, autumn in Tennessee or a Siberian winter just as easily as rainy Seattle (from whence it actually did come). It's accessible, too. Case in point: my mom was riding in the car with us this week as we listened to this album. We only got through the album's first three songs (we listened to "White Winter Hymnal" about 7 times, per Addison's request), but when we arrived at a bookstore, she bought the album. My mom bought it. It's that good.

1. Anathallo - Canopy Glow - Not everyone loves Anathallo as much as I do, but for some reason, they are a band in tune with my soul. This album is great from the first note to the last. I didn't really think they could top their 2006 epic "Floating World," but I think they did. The album is focused and tight, and the melodies are gorgeous. "All The First Pages" is my favorite song of 2008, and "Italo" is my daughter's runner up to Fleet Foxes' "White Winter Hymnal." I hope Anathallo is able to continue to make music for a very long time. I will listen. Yes, I will listen again and again.
Thanks to all the artists who continue to make great music year in and year out. I certainly do appreciate it, and I know that somehow the world is better for it. It is good for humans, created in God's image, to create beautiful things for our brothers and sisters to enjoy. So enjoy the list, and I hope, the music.

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