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  • Ten Great Albums of 2015

    Ten Great Albums of 2015

    I am my own curator. Never being a person who submits himself to the radio or random Pandora stations, I have lots I want to hear on my own. Saying that I spun these albums over and over this year. These filled up my listening time. 

    Consisting of three albums from North Carolina, two albums of soul music, three worship-type albums, six of these ten artists were brand new to me. This list has a mix of straight-at-ya, four on the floor rock & roll, syncopated rhythms and electronic breaks. These albums salute the past while blurring the lines of musical traditions. Each is fresh and holds up under repeat listens.

    Albums #6-10

    (From Left to Right)

    Phil Cook - Southland Mission

    "An ode to pumping your fist and embracing the ride. Great guitar playing and band leading."

    Alabama Shakes - Sound & Color

    "The great albums always make you want to be in the band. Dance, scream and shout.This is one of those."

    Lord Huron - Strange Tails

    "This isn’t groundbreaking - it’s just good. Addictive cadences abound."

    Gloria Ann Taylor - Love Is A Hurtin' Thing

    "A reissue from a forgotten soul icon. Amazing. If you had this in 1971-77 you were just plain cool."

    Aaron Strumpel - Bright Star

    "Avante-garde worship for those who prefer the Authentic over a produced Product."

    Albums #1-5

    (From Left to Right)

    Farao - Till It’s All Forgotten

    "Lo-fi, electronic, pop-folk from Oslo, Norway. Really great drums. An instant classic."

    John Mark & Sarah McMillan - You Are The Avalanche (EP)

    "This album makes sense of the REPEAT button. I've learned how to play every song here on my guitar."

    Grimes - Art Angels

    "Ambitious home recording that is equally sweet as it is shocking."

    Andy Squyres - Cherry Blossoms

    "As rich in sound as it is honest in lyric. You'll never need an excuse to listen."

    Tame Impala - Currents,

    "Some people always have nice cars. This album sounds like what those cars should be playing. Well-crafted and groovy."



    What was your favorite album? What did you play over and over? Comment below.

  • Five Great Books I Read In 2015

    Five Great Books I Read In 2015

    What matters in the world and why?

    These are great questions. One way I personally look for answers is by reading. It's here that I become aware of different perspectives. A great reward is found by looking through the lens of what someone else has to say. Reading gives my imagination eyes to see.

    A few years ago I determined that I wouldn’t buy any more books until I finished reading what I already owned. I failed miserably. I kept buying books. New shiny books, lightly used books, vintage books, electronic books, audio books, library books, borrowed books, so many choices, so many voices and I must keep on reading.

    Lists help. I started keeping track of what I read and that helped me keep me on track to read what was important to me. In 2013, I read twenty-one books. Last year it was forty-seven books. This year I’ve just finished my forty-ninth and when New Year’s arrives I will have finished my fiftieth book this year. Here are five great books I read in 2015 that will make you ponder, and maybe answer some of the big questions you’ve been asking.

    Five Great Books I Read In 2015

    1. Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton (buy on Amazon.com)

    Melton started a blog several years ago called Momastery.com. You should look into it right away. She’s the kind that makes your heart beat a little faster, gives your smile authenticity, challenges you to love unconditionally while generally giving you the breathing room you need to say, "I can do this". She bares her soul and dares you to follow. Why? Because that’s what life is about. I learned a lot from her book. She taught me that family is “who keeps showing up”. I love that. Here's more...

    “Life without touching other people is boring as hell. It hit me that maybe the battles of life are best fought without armor or without weapons. That maybe life gets real, good, and interesting when we remove all of the layers of protection we’ve built around our hearts and walk onto the battlefield of life naked.”

    Go to your local library and check out this book. Better yet order it on Amazon right now.

     

    2. Defending The Free Market by The Rev. Robert Sirico (buy on Amazon.com)

    This past year I was given a gift that keeps on giving in the form of an invitation to Acton University, a unique, four-day exploration of the intellectual foundations of a free society. If that sounds heady it’s ok. It was. I attended Acton U in the summer and a friend told me to read this book written by the President of Acton Institute, before attending. Acton U is turning out to be “a lifelong journey of obtaining knowledge and skills in regards to liberty, faith, virtue and free-market economics.” That quote is from their website and it is totally true.

    This book is written by The Rev. Robert Sirico, a brilliant and compassionate man who is a self-described “Leftist undone”. With chapter titles like, “The Idol of Equality”, “Why Greed Isn’t Good - And Why We Get More Of It With Socialism Than Capitalism” and “Want To Help The Poor? Start A Business”, I wish everyone would read this book. 

     

    3. The Search For God and Guinness by Stephen Mansfield (buy on Amazon.com)

    I first found out about this while at a conference at Bethel Church in Redding, CA. This book has been on their “Recommended” shelf for years and for good reason. The Guinness’ were people of faith and this moved them to do much good in their society. Few families have helped more people than the Guinness’. The facts are astounding. Here’s a few:

    • Arthur Guinness founded the first Sunday schools in Ireland, fought against dueling, and chaired the board of a hospital for the poor.

    • During WWI, Guinness guaranteed all of its employees who served in uniform that their jobs would be waiting for them when they came home. Guinness also paid half salaries to the family of each man who served.

    • A Guinness chief medical officer, Dr. John Lumsden, personally visited thousands of Dublin homes in 1900 and used what he learned to help the company fight disease, squalor, and ignorance. These efforts also led to the establishment of the Red Cross, for which Dr. Lumsden was knighted by King George.

    • Henry Grattan Guinness, grandson of brewery founder Arthur Guinness, was a Christian leader of such impact that he was ranked with Dwight L. Moody and Charles Spurgeon in his day. He has been called the Billy Graham of the nineteenth century.

    • Guinness was known for its care of its employees. One Guinness family member

    Ultimately this book is about making your mark in the world, being together and living intentionally so that others can flourish. Yes, a book about a family that makes beer is about all these things. The Guinness name lives up to it’s description as a “beer that changed the whole world”. Read it to believe it.

     

    4. What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense by Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, Robert P. George (buy on Amazon.com)

    You may have already decided what you think about marriage before reading my post. I hope so. What I found in these pages is a scholarly and kind conversation about the definition of marriage and what makes a redefinition. I found that the argument within these pages deeply confronts my own views. Yes, I have believed that marriage is rightly defined as being between man and woman, but why did I believe that? That's a great question.

    This topic is worth your inspection. Marriage isn't a supplement to society. It's a foundation piece to what makes the world go round. This topic is worth your inspection. If you want to read a compassionate book that is academic while still keeping it very real then pick this up.

    5. Worship, Community & the Triune God of Grace by James B. Torrance (buy on Amazon.com)

    I started writing my own book about on the topic of worship and read seventeen books directly on the subject this year. This one is the single best on what worship is. I’ve quoted and preached from this several times already at DreamHouse, our local church. I expect to continue to do so for years to come. Here's a taste from Torrance, “Worship is the gift of participating through the Spirit in the incarnate Sons communion with the Father.” Re-read that sentence as many times as necessary.

    I've found most books about worship often take a stance on the methodology or the experience. Torrance keeps the subject on the "who" of worship. The communion between the Father and the Son and our participation by the Spirit is where every worship conversation should start and end. I suspect this is a different way of seeing worship for many. Here's a bit of what this means, we’re not worshipping AT God because of Jesus. Our worship is found IN this Trinitarian communion.

    The Church's view of worship is critical. If we don’t get Worship right, we won’t get Family right. We won’t get Community right. We won’t get the local church right, or the body of Christ right if we keep seeing God and Jesus simply as objects of our affection. I hope you're catching this. Big implications are found within these pages.


    What was your favorite book this year? Comment below. I’m interested.

  • Still Optimistic?

    The world is a mess. Aren't you paying attention?

    How can you be an "optimistic local church?"

    Are your heads in the sand? Don't you know it's only getting worse?

    Aren't you just choosing ignorance in saying that you believe that "God is in a good mood?"

    No one has ever just come out and asked me such bold questions, but I imagine they are there. I'm a leader of DreamHouse, a church that calls itself "optimistic." Just take a look at the news or scroll down your Facebook wall. It doesn't take a Sherlock Holmes-like sense of details to see that things are rough out there. The question I ask myself is this, "What are we optimistic about"? Allow me to answer.

    1 Corinthians 2:9-10 says, 
    "What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him—these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit."

    Paul is quoting Isaiah here. In Isaiah 64 this scripture is a prophetic passage about the coming of Jesus. In the first verse of the chapter, we read, 
    "Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you!" 
    If you read Isaiah like it was written to you for 2015 you might get excited because to a lot of Christians this scripture is the anticipation that Jesus would come and solve the world's problems. Like Superman, or something less commercial, he would come down from the Heavens and trounce his enemies. The hope from this perspective is that even if things really are horrible, Jesus's appearance will fix it.

    Here's the thing, the book of Isaiah wasn't written to you. It was written to Jews in exile around 711 BC (BC as in before Christ). The historical context here is that Israel and Jerusalem were in Babylonian captivity. The expectation of God - as being delivered through Isaiah - is that restoration is ahead for God's purposes for His people. This passage is a prayer that is followed by God's answer, ultimately reminding them of His plan for salvation comprising a new Zion that will include the nations (66:18-21).

    So when does God's salvation come? When will the nations be included in this new Zion?  Great questions. Let's read from the Gospel of John.
    "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
    Do you mean to tell me that is your answer??
    Jesus's death and resurrection are why you are optimistic?!

    In a word - yes. Let's read on from verse 16-21.
    "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God."
    Traditional wisdom tells us that we don't have an answer for today's problems. I'm not spiritualizing the situation, I'm telling you that in Christ we can live in the truth of His Light. That means we can approach today and tomorrow with wisdom, hope, peace, joy and the empowerment of our Heavenly Father.

    The implications of Jesus coming to earth, dying on the cross, resurrecting and giving his disciples his authority is more than we've realized. In Christ, we have been given God's life. Sin and death are no longer holding all the cards. It's our move.

    We are an optimistic church because we believe in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. Jesus isn't yet to be Lord. His Kingdom is here now. There is no separation between us. Now, let's open our hearts to the one's who are in front of us and let's come up with a plan for the next 100 years. There's a big opportunity in front of us.
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    Watch what you can do with an open heart. 

    Begin to live as if death were not.

    Let your light shine and make a spark today.

    Hear the rhythm beating of a life that's shared.

    It's all for playing. Take part and play and

    run the risk of going where you never thought. 

    You'll be okay.

    Lyrics from "The Life Giving Well of an Open Heart", Track 13 on 'Upon Shoulders', the forthcoming album of Scott Crowder.