Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas, and a Good Link

Check this out:

Kurt Warner

I don't really get all that "in" to football per se, but this is just great.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Letter About a Letter About a Country About an Idea


The following is an e-mail I sent to some friends and family recently regarding the elections. Check out the link in it....

Friends and Family,

All of you are people with whom I have had a conversation (at least in the past year) regarding our recent Presidential elections. A common topic of interest for Christians is the question of “how to respond” to the results, and I’ve seen a somewhat emotional response from believers on both the right and the left. This concerns me just a bit. While I love the enthusiasm with which our country engaged this year’s elections, I also see that it can easily lead to an emotional over-investment in a particular candidate, issue, ideology, or party.

As you all know very well, our investment must first be to His Kingdom, not to the worldly, human, finite kingdoms of this Earth. I do not say this because I think you need a reminder, but because I see each of us (as members of the Kingdom) as having a unique opportunity to humbly point this out to those around us.

Now the real reason I’m writing… I found the following link at a site called UrbanFaith (thanks Dee) and I think this letter written by a pastor to his congregation articulates well the kind of unity and reconciliation believers of either side of the aisle are called to have. If you have 5 free minutes, check it out: We are to place our hope in our King, not in our President, our Congress, or our government.

I hope you enjoy the brief article, and please know that each of you is a blessing, a challenge, and an encouragement for me to be more like Christ.

Thanks for your time and have a blessed day,


Saturday, November 8, 2008


I have made a recording of some of my music and have been selling it.

Let me know if you'd like to acquire a copy of The Bailiwick EP.

That is all.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I love music.

Mae - We're So Far Away
Coldplay - The Scientist
Journey - Lights
Glen Hansard - Say It To Me Now
Coldplay - Death and All His Friends
The Fray - All At Once
Sufjan Stevens - Come On! Feel the Illinoise!
Stevie Wonder - Sir Duke
The Killers - Read My Mind
The Format - The First Single (Cause a Scene)
Ben Folds - Landed
Miles Davis - Freddie Freeloader
Brand New - You Won't Know
Radiohead - Subterranean Homesick Alien
Train - Calling All Angels
Joshua Radin & Patty Griffin - You've Got Growing Up to Do
Herbie Hancock & John Mayer - Stitched Up

...there, that should keep you busy for now. Back to the thesis...

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Still a Student

Well, school is back in full swing, and instead of commenting on how long it's been since my last post (exactly one month) I will simply inform all you readers out there that I will be doing some musical recording today. I am interested to see how it goes.

I will also be spending an hour or so playing some of my music live, in front of whoever decides to show up, at a little place called The Living Room in Muncie, IN on October 31. A young whippersnapper named Joe Paulson will also be performing, so perhaps all you trick-or-treaters can make your way on down to Muncie to make yourselves sick on the candy you just "tricked" your neighbors out of, and listen to some original tunes while you do so.

...and no, I will not be playing the song "Halloweenhead" by Ryan Adams.

But seriously, this summer is over. I am reminded of the perks and downfalls of still being a student. I got to relax this summer, a lot. But now I return to a world where there are responsibilities, deadlines, assignments, readings, and a whole lot of time being consumed. And the funny thing is, I'm returning voluntarily. Anyone who's ever been in school (e.g. everyone) has at one point or another wondered, "Why? Why spend all this time and effort on jumping through the societal hoops known as 'degree requirements' or 'grade point averages' and the like? Why not go outside and play instead?" I often wonder such things, and I'm sure many of you do almost daily. But the answer to which we must return is that for one reason or another, spending so much time reading, writing, thinking, etc. actually (somewhere along the line) caused us to learn things. Not only that, but it also made us better people. We became educated, gaining informational wisdom, and formational experience.

Maybe we didn't notice it until years later, though, when someone asked us a question and we knew the answer, or when a situation arose and we knew how to handle it. There was just something about spending all that time immersed in all that work that actually helped us, changed us, grew us, and when the time came, we were ready. We were educated.

And as the summer comes to a close, I also find myself frustrated at my lack of musical productivity. I had planned to write a new song every other day. Actual results? I re-worked one or two of my old ones, played a coffee shop a few times, and that's it. I spent hours at the piano, on an almost daily basis, but I've nothing to show for it. Now summer is done, and I really don't have the time I once did, the time to write, to create.

But the lesson I have to learn about education is also one (I think) I have to learn about artistic creation. Like so many good things, it too requires an investment, almost what we would call a sacrifice, to even start to bring about fruit.

I must be a student of my craft.

Maybe all those hours spent in the "music room" at my parents' home in Kentucky were in vain. Or maybe, somewhere along the line, I picked something up that will lie dormant for the next 6 years, until one day, inspiration strikes, and the seed planted during the summer of '08 will suddenly sprout from what looked like dry, dead ground. And I'll look down and realize that an entire network of roots have been laid in the ground, and that a truly great thing can now come to life because of what had been invested years before.

I guess I'm not really thinking about songwriting anymore. I'm anxious to see the kind of forest that will be growing in the Kingdom of Heaven. I'm anxious to wake up one day and suddenly realize that, all around me, He has been planting, watering, growing, pruning, and preparing His people for the real show. The same anxiety that plagues me as someone who is "still a student" bothers me in my pursuit of the Kingdom as well as in the pursuit of my music. I would just rather be done with the learning, to be the expert that is ready to make it happen. This is why I need that reminder of the importance of learning. It really is one's experience that makes one an expert.

But for now, I would be content to just write one really good song.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A White Guy Walks Into a Bar...

Which is a more threatening element of Western culture: racism or consumerism?

What is funnier: a joke at your own expense or one at another's?

Which is the stronger cultural icon: iPods or Starbucks?

If any of these three questions sparked your interest, I know a place you should visit. It is a land where satire meets cultural commentary meets racial stereotyping; where you may find yourself laughing at yourself laughing at yourself, or maybe you'll be completely offended by the fact that you found yourself completely offended.

If you haven't heard of it, the website is called Stuff White People Like (SWPL for short), and since its launch in January of this year, it has become the topic of discussion at places like The Chronicle of Higher Education, NPR, and hosts of national newspapers, not to mention lots of blogs... It's a satirical blog that lists off the top 100+ things that "white people like." Sound moderately offensive? It is. Sound kind of funny? It is very.

More than anything, SWPL is less an overtly racial commentary and more an adept exploration of the sub-mainstream/young-hipster/college-student culture in this country (not to mention a website that made me laugh out loud a few times, and then wonder if I should have). But I think there are some racial elements boiling just beneath the surface as well, and it's worth taking some time to think and talk about them.

I got sucked in and read almost everything on the site. Then I spent even more time reading what other people have to say about it. Now I want to know what my friends think.

Check it out, take 10-20 minutes, read a few of the posts, and then come back here and share your initial thoughts. (Click here for the full list)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Let Freedom Ring

What is freedom?

Your answer to this simple question, please.

(There are a few ways to think about it, so let your mind wander for a few minutes before answering...)

(Also, this requires you to make a comment to respond with your answer, in case you hadn't realized, thanks)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I Don't Hate This Guy

...I'm just a little concerned that he's not thinking too clearly lately.

It was a little over 2 years ago when Barack Obama appeared as the keynote speaker at a Call to Renewal event in Washington, D.C. But it has not been until the past month that a number of his comments made at that Jim Wallis/Sojourner's get-together have come under attack by one of his chief political opponents.

And I'm actually not talking about John McCain.

Instead, Barack's 2-year-old comments are getting flak from a man who claims that he can't even vote for McCain in good conscience. He's a man who literally millions of Christians turn to for wisdom and guidance, who has gone from being a champion of preservation and redemption of the family to a political/social commentator on any issue he can get his hands on that so much as crosses the deep line drawn in the "conservative" sand, a man who actually believes that a nation can somehow be "Christian" (I believe only people can be Christians).

Dr. James Dobson spent a good deal of time in a radio address that aired two weeks ago attacking remarks Obama made in that speech two years ago. He accused the likely Democratic Presidential nominee of "deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own world-view, his own confused theology."
I ended up listening to Dobson and his political cohort Tom Minnery go on in their criticism of Obama, in their words a commentary that is "of incredible importance in understanding his (Obama's) world-view." I won't go on with more quotes because I'll provide links below where you can either listen for yourself, or look at some excerpts. Anyway...

The more I listened, the more angry I became. I wasn't angry because I necessarily disagreed with the principles for which Dobson stands: Biblical authority, understanding our politicians' world-views, the "religious" basis for morality (although I think he improperly labels this one; unless I'm mistaken, God is the basis for morality, not religion). I was mainly angry because I read that speech that Obama gave two years ago, and I loved it. It's one of the best speeches I've ever heard. Listening to it proved to me that Barack Obama is a thoughtful, informed, and devoted follower of Christ (that is, if he was truthful in all he said; I think he was). His understanding of the role faith plays in social and political matters is insightful and well-articulated. Moreover, it actually aligns fairly well with what people like James Dobson (on the right), Jim Wallis (on the left), and even Jerry Falwell (back when he was alive, he was so far to the right that he kept tipping over) have practiced for a long time: the insertion of issues of faith and morality into the political conversation.

But the thing that made me angry about Dobson's diatribe was his complete misrepresentation of Obama's words. He took quotes out of context, made inferences that were clearly inaccurate to anyone who read the entirety of the speech, responded defensively to what was not even close to an attack (but simply a reference) even when Dobson claimed not to be responding defensively to the "offensive" words from Obama, and COMPLETELY missed the point of the Senator's speech.

As I sat and pondered these things, already quite angry and fed-up with Focus on the Family (at least for the time being), I found a second wave of frustration as I considered the platform from which Dobson speaks, his influence, and therefore his responsibility to speak the truth (also to do so in love). There was so much in Obama's words which resonated as truth, and so little in Dobson's. I'm not accusing him of being intentionally deceptive, but rather warning him to take more care as one whose words travel so far to so many ears.

Luckily, I found this website: James Dobson Doesn't Speak For Me. Apparently I'm not alone as a Christian who is frustrated with Dobson's misuse of his platform as an Evangelical leader.

The Point: Barack Obama is actually a Christian. He believes that his faith needs to inform his politics, and not just on two or three issues approved by the Right. He believes that for some reason, God wants to be involved in all arenas of life, and that peoples' world-views cannot and should not be separated from the moral decisions and actions they take. I know, he sounds like a total idiot, doesn't he? Or does Dr. Dobson not believe these things as well? Faith and politics are an increasingly interesting area, not just to me, but to most Christians I know. I wonder how much longer people like Dobson can go on spouting partisan rhetoric before my fellow Christians start thinking for themselves.

Sorry if I sound angry. I've cooled down a bit from when I began this post, but I am still frustrated. Does anyone relate here or am I way off-base?

- Read Obama's Speech (Awesome)
You should really read this speech.

- AP Story about Dobson vs. Obama
The basic story.

- James Dobson Doesn't Speak For Me
Provides quotations from both Obama and Dobson shown in comparison. Very helpful.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Gorge Is Just... Awesome.

...and I know that word is overused. But if you've ever found yourself exiting the Mountain Parkway, plunging headlong into the blackness of the Nada Tunnel, only to emerge to a beautiful day filled with eastern Kentucky sandstone and sunshine, you understand what I'm talking about.

If not, then you're like I was just three short days ago. Growing up, my family had spent plenty of time hiking around some of Kentucky's best trails, forests, and caves. But on Thursday, my old friend Zach and I ventured somewhere I had been near dozens of times, but had never really gotten to explore.

The Red River Gorge is known the world over, particularly by climbing enthusiasts, for its cliffs, arch formations, and climber-friendly atmosphere. Less than 100 miles from my home, it is a place I often wanted to fully experience, but had never actually visited (much like the interesting fact that despite living most of my life surrounded by horses, horse farms, pictures of horses on horse farms, and people who ride horses for a living, I've never actually had the chance to get on one and ride). Zach, on the other hand, has been to "The Gorge" (as it's called by n00bs, like me) approximately 200 times in the past 5 years (his count being only moderately suspect simply because he is a climber, and climbers obviously have questionable levels sanity somewhat below average). Suffice it to say, he knows the area quite well. We only hiked a modest distance (because of my stupid freaking ankle) and found ourselves atop a rock formation known as Cloud Splitter (Latitude: 37.8375, Longitude -83.62056... in case you'd fancy a visit yourself) where we spent most of the day exploring a wicked-cool cave, praying, reading the Anglican daily liturgy (The Book of Common Prayer), talking about life, love, & other mysteries*, and generally enjoying the (literally) breathtaking spectacle before us. After building the fastest-lighting fire of all time (seriously, those chemically enhanced "fire-starter" logs have nothing on us) and a night beneath the stars (and airplanes, lots of airplanes) we awoke early, as campers are wont to do, dodged a spot or two of rain, and made it to Miguel's for omelets (we had already been there the day before for pizza... delicious) before heading home.

I've heard it said that "a day in the mountains is worth a thousand in the city."** Now I'm no math major, but I'm not sure how that exchange rate really works out, what with crude oil at over $130 a barrel and the declining value of the dollar... Anyway, what I mean is: I still like spending days in the city, because people live there, and people are really interesting. But every now and then, people can kind of get you down, and what you really need is to get away from most of them and spend some time with your Father in the extraordinary playground He's set up for you.

All of us, no matter where we live, can find ways to get outside, take in some sunshine and admire the creation around us - whether that's among the misty peaks of the Rockies, the town park a few blocks from your house, or just the trees and birds in your own backyard. It really is therapeutic... unless of course you hate good things, in which case you probably ought not to spend time outdoors, nor should you purchase the new Coldplay (review forthcoming).

So I'm not sure how many days I saved up with my trip into "The Red" (as it's known by the elite, climbers and the like), but I do know this: I got a chance to connect with God, with a friend, and with the place where blue sky meets sandy stone. I would also like to return soon, so please let me know if you're interested. Plus, Miguel's Pizza is seriously some of the best I've ever tasted...

* The 1996 release from contemporary Christian pop sensations Point of Grace, which may or may not have been the first record I ever purchased (insert shame here).
** See here for the blog post I'm referencing. It's the first one at the top. How can I say with assurance that it's the first one? Because it will literally never be updated ever again.***
*** I would like to preemptively apologize for the (extremely unlikely) possibility that Sara and Alli do in fact update their blog eventually.****
**** I would also like to state that these asterisk footnotes are a blatant rip from Steve Conn's blog (look at that link love)*****
***** But that's okay because he ripped it off that guy that used to write funny the funny column in The Echo (and no, I'm not talking about Steve... the other guy... Joe somebody).
Annnnnd, I'm done.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pitchforks, Wine, and Battlefields: Why Critics Suck (for the most part)

I’ve never much liked critics. Corman and I were talking about them yesterday and he quoted some brilliant author who described (I’m paraphrasing) them as people who come onto a battlefield after the fighting has ended and shoot all the dead people. They’re mean little cusses, and what they do amounts to very little.

So I heard about this study (and then went and looked it up and found it) where they had some people (not connoisseurs, but people who like red wine) try five “different” wines and rate their taste. Additionally, they used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure brain activity and measure “experienced pleasantness” as they tasted each wine. Overwhelmingly, the subjects rated the most “expensive” wines as the best-tasting. Additionally, the fMRI data showed that the most expensive wines also registered higher experienced pleasantness. In other words, opinions matched brain stimulus.

Here’s the kicker, though… There were only three different wines. One was a $5 bottle that got labeled twice, both as a $5 wine and a fictitious $45 wine; one was a $90 wine that got labeled twice, both as a $90 wine a fictitious $10 wine; the last was a control wine that was correctly labeled with its $35 price.

The study suggests that more than just pretending to have better taste, wine snobs might actually be enjoying more expensive wine better than the cheap stuff; not because it’s inherently better, but because they think it is and unintentionally (but genuinely) enjoy it more.

Is the human brain influenced not only by inherent value of an experience, but also the expectations, perceptions, and marketing surrounding that experience? Whether we like it or not, it seems so.

I've read reviews where Coldplay takes flak for almost everything they do, partially because of Chris Martin's songwriting, but also partially (I think) because of the great level of popularity they have achieved (their new album, for instance, sold 300,000 copies in its first 3 days in the UK alone). Indie critic sites like Pitchfork* pretty much bemoan everything Coldplay does, often referencing a disconnect between the band's huge popularity and its "gag-inducing" songwriting/influences/production. I'm sure that most of the Indie-critics out there would say that popularity really has no weight over the greatness or quality of a piece of music; and yet so many of them use that factor as grounds for an even more intense lambasting of something that has widespread notoriety. The same song that might have been labeled "mediocre" as a no-name's debut single now becomes an absolute "atrocity" simply because the artist has achieved great popular (if not critical) fame.

So I’ve come to a brilliant conclusion: critics are snobs. Big whoop. But I would actually like to defend critics a bit. The above study does help confirm some of the snobbery we have suspected for a long time, but it also tells us that we all are subject to marketing, media attention, and our own personal expectations. Because I love Coldplay, I will probably enjoy their new album more than if it had been released in identical form by some other band. Conversely, those Pitchfork critics hate it simply because it’s Coldplay, but it’s not completely their fault… it’s also the evil record company’s.

So those are my groundbreaking thoughts: critics are lame and record companies suck.

I’ll be doing my own post-battle shooting later this week with a review of Coldplay’s new album which I’m listening to right now.

* is a website that reviews music. They are the quintessential Indie-snob critic site. See TheOnion's hilarious parody where Pitchfork gives music as a whole a 6.8 out of 10.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Who Will Rescue Me From This Body of Death?

A man named R.D. Laing once said that life is a sexually transmitted disease, and the mortality rate is one hundred percent.

Overall, this is a disgusting way to think about God-given, God-breathed life. Approaching each day I live with that sort of attitude leads simply to despair. But there are a few elements of human life that I think Laing is hinting at here:

- The Fallen World: Sin is most assuredly at work in both the spiritual and the physical. We most often think about sin in the spiritual sense. But notice that in Genesis 3, God's description of the curse of the fall is almost wholly physical.

- Decay of the Physical: In life, we all must experience the reality of decay, the breaking-down of our physical bodies. In youth, there is a carefree enjoyment of the gift of good health; but even still, some of the young know only physical suffering. In age, there comes a sometimes gradual, sometimes rapid, deterioration of the systems and functions of the human body.

- Inevitability of Death: "All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full..." (Ecclesiastes 1:7a). Both Scripture and, even more vividly, our own human experience, tell us the truth of human mortality.

There have been many writers, thinkers, and artists that have contemplated all of this far more deeply and with far more eloquence than I, but I wanted to share these thoughts because my view of these truths has been sharpened in a strange way recently.

Over the past 48 hours, the limitations and imperfections of my own physical body have been made very apparent. Not only did I badly sprain my ankle (I heard ligaments popping out of place at the time I injured it), but also a quite potent virus that has gotten into my system. Saturday night, I spent hours icing and elevating the unrelenting throbbing in my ankle. The next morning, I awoke to violent stomach pains, resulting in some fairly unpleasant occurrences throughout the entire day yesterday and an inability to keep any food or drink down (I'll leave it at that). I found myself immobilized, sleeping for short periods, unable to focus on any real thought or conversation, and with a pounding headache to boot. As I write this morning, some of the stomach pain has subsided, but I can feel a tingling soreness in the back of my throat that tells me I will probably be coughing for the rest of the week.

I say all of this, however, not to complain. In fact, I am even now reminded of how thankful I should be that these are the only things with which I am suffering. I have a feeling that within the next few days, my sickness will be gone, and my ankle will hopefully feel significantly better. One of my friends who is currently battling cancer, who has already experienced all these symptoms and more for the past several months, and who has a long month of chemotherapy treatments ahead of her - she, if anyone, would have a right to complain.

Rather, I am now simply thankful and thoughtful. Sickness and injury can give us a more concrete way of pondering the idea of a final sleep, a concept I often find far too abstract to wrap my mind around.

My thankfulness is twofold:
- I am thankful in the short-term, for the physical provision that the Lord offers me even now. I am thankful for His healing and his sustenance.
- I am thankful in the long-term, for the physical restoration that the Lord will bring about. He "will transform these humble bodies of ours into the likeness of His glorious body" (Phil. 3:21) and "the body that is sown perishable will be raised imperishable" (1 Cor 15:42).

"Just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven." (1 Cor 15:49)

For a long time, 1 Corinthians 15 has been one of my most cherished passages of Scripture. It offers hope of a kind that no other earthly leader can. Obama may promise change, but we know that his sort of change can only go so far. Christ promises that "we will be changed" (1 Cor. 15:52b) and that we will be clothed with the imperishable.

Who will rescue me from this body of death?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Please Refrain From Reading This Post

…trust me. It’s way too long and crappy. The last paragraph is the only place that even starts to be good, and it’s rough too.
There, I covered my behind from any judgment you might make about me or my writing. I can now continue free of care:

You know, I’ve been thinking a bit lately about this blog thing.

How many times have I opened up my browser, clicked the link to my own blog, and stared disappointedly at the same old post that’s been there for a month? More than I care to say. Every time I see that I haven’t updated, it makes me want to update less. What do I have to say right now? Frankly, until this week, I had essentially put my brain in sleep mode, at least in terms of the things I normally ponder almost perpetually: faith, music, politics, life, people, justice, Frisbee, and food.

So maybe those last two I ponder simply to the extent of a desire to be experiencing them at most every hour of the day. The others, I’d say, tend to command a level of depth in thought that, quite frankly, I’m not really smart enough to maintain for more than a few minutes at a time. Seriously, though, I think I’ve been afraid to post because I think I don’t have anything to say that’s insightful enough to share with you, the reader. This is not to say that I haven’t been thinking at all for the last month. Maybe what’s been happening has simply been too personal or, more likely, too undeveloped to put into writing.

But that’s often my problem. Writing only comes naturally when I begin to do it. The desire to begin is almost never there. So here I am, starting an entry once again; and once again, I have to get things underway by metablogging. In my opinion, the only thing more lame/pitiful than writing about writing is to write about… just that. You see, the more you start to think about thinking, the more layers of thought you find yourself caught thinking. The only real way to redeem such a feedback loop of thought is to think critically about the loop in which you find yourself, which only makes matters worse. Try this:

Think about yourself thinking. Do this for a moment, and suddenly, you will feel quite silly. When you start to feel silly, you have become keenly aware of the fact that you are now transcendentally thinking about thinking about thinking. But just before you attempt to articulate that sense in any meaningful way (even to yourself), the moment has slipped away below countless layers of thought. You quickly re-set your feet in reality, by wiping clean the slate and thinking about something else. This all will happen in the course of about 10 seconds.

If that was difficult for you, try to do it in writing. This will clarify the absurdity of the whole process in that it leaves the thinker/writer altogether inarticulate. That is, he or she simply cannot articulate nearly as quickly as he or she can observe that articulation, which as he or she proceeds to observe, is equally inexpressible, except to begin to describe it in words as these I have written for the past two and a half paragraphs, only to be left with words like “absurd” or “silly” to describe the whole situation.

One useful thought occurs to me, however, and that is, in the form of a question, “Why does a thought have to be useful in order to be a valuable thought?” I can think about things for a long time about which someone might say, “this is not a helpful thought.” But is this not an over-pragmatized definition of the validity or worth of a thought? Do my thoughts have value only if they lead to some “useful” end? Who says whether something is “useful”?

The concept of “value” is somewhat problematic. When you look it up in my Mac’s onboard dictionary, you cyclically connect to three words: importance, attention, and significance. This latter concept is a bit more helpful in that it ties to the concept of meaning, or rather ties fairly closely to usefulness. So value, by definition, does have something to do with usefulness. But what is “useful”?

This is interesting too: try looking up the word “useful.” Here’s the definition I get: “able to be used for a practical purpose or in several ways.”
This definition is somewhat problematic in its use of the root word to clarify meaning. For fun, let’s see how it defines the root word: “take, hold, or deploy (something) as a means of accomplishing a purpose or achieving a result.”

Hmm. These definitions seem only to lead to more definitions. Okay, bear with me for the next few minutes as I take us down a definition path. The bolded words are words that I will seek to define. Italicized words are ones we’ve already attempted to define (and thus, are somewhat of a dead-end, or perhaps more accurately a feedback loop, in ascertaining meaning). When I put a word in ALL CAPS, I will save that word for later because it seems important. Remember, if this gets a bit tedious, I already warned you not to read this post. Really, you can skip to the last section of definitions (capitalized ones) if you like, and just trust that I have more or less faithfully pursued definitions to that end. The choice is yours…

Here goes:

Useful – able to be used for a practical purpose or in several ways.
Use – take, hold, or deploy as a means of accomplishing a purpose or achieving a result
Purpose – the reason for which something is done or created or for which something EXISTS
Create – bring into EXISTENCE
Reason – a cause, explanation, or justification for an ACTION or event
Cause – a PERSON or THING that gives rise to an ACTION, phenomenon, or condition

Result – a consequence, effect, or outcome of something
Consequence – a result or effect of an action or condition
Effect – a change that is a result or consequence of an action or other cause
Action – the fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim
Aim – a purpose or intention; a desired outcome
Outcome – the way a thing turns out; a consequence
Intention – a thing intended; an aim or plan
Plan – a detailed proposal for DOING or achieving something
Achieve – reach or attain
Reach – attain or extend to (a specified point, level, or condition)
Point – a particular spot, PLACE, or position
Attain – succeed in achieving
Intend – have as one’s purpose or objective
Objective – a thing aimed at or sought
Seek – attempt to find
Find – discover or perceive
Discover – find unexpectedly
Perceive – become aware or conscious of; come to realize or understand
Realize – become fully aware of as a FACT
Aware – having knowledge or perception of a situation or FACT
Knowledge – FACTS, information, and skills
Situation – set of circumstances in which one finds oneself
Circumstances – a fact or condition connected with or relevant to an EVENT or ACTION
Understand – perceive the intended meaning of
Meaning – what is meant by a word, text, concept, or action
Mean – intend to convey, indicate, or refer
Indicate – point out; show
Show – be or allow or cause to be visible
Visible – able to be seen
See – perceive with the eyes
Convey – transport or carry to a PLACE

DO – perform (an action)
EXIST – having objective reality or being
Objective – not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts
Reality – the world or the state of THINGS as they actually exist
Be - exist
FACT – a thing that is indisputably the case (an instance (occurrence (event)))
PLACE – a particular position or point in space
Position – a place where someone or something is located
Locate – discover the exact place or position of
EVENT – a thing that happens (take place; occur)→ all three definitions for “happen,” “take place,” and “occur” all lead back to each other
HAPPEN – (alt. definition) ensue as an effect or result of an action or event

ACTION – the fact or process of doing something
SOMETHING – a thing that is unspecified
THING – an object that one need not, cannot, or does not wish to give a specific name to
SOMEONE – an unknown or unspecified person
PERSON – a human being regarded as an individual
Individual – a single human being
Human being – a man, woman, or child of the species Homo sapiens
Man – an adult human male
Woman – an adult human female
Child – a young human being
OBJECT – a person or thing to which a specified action or feeling is directed

Thus, after a quasi-exhaustive exploration of meaning beneath the concept of "usefulness," the resultant and elemental concepts are (surprise, surprise):
- ACTION (verb)
- PERSON (noun, pt 1)
- PLACE (noun, pt 2)
- THING (noun, pt 3)
- OBJECT (nouns, all)
These, as you must already know, are the most basic building blocks of language. Because all nouns can function grammatically as subjects and objects, and because all subjects are objects in and of themselves, language conveys, at its most basic level: ACTION & OBJECT.
Such concepts are all rooted in the concept of EXISTENCE.

Therefore, in my (very) crude exploration of our language, no thought can actually be deemed “not useful” other than the thought which has yet to be thought. Some might argue that a thought does not actually have existence in the same sense as people, places, and things. But Plato would say that a thought, or IDEA, has “eternal existence” as a pattern of which individual things in any class are imperfect copies, and in such a sense, has a more “real” existence than any noun. But then again, that’s Plato. Here is perhaps where my argument breaks down.

But I’ve yet to make an argument! I got ahead of myself. I will conclude (finally) with this:

Usefulness or purpose is almost inseparably tied to existence. I believe, as many of you do, that existence has come from an Uncaused Causer, or rather, God Himself. That is, however, an argument for another day. Assuming God has created us, He has done so implicitly giving us (and all other existent things) purpose, usefulness, and meaning.

So maybe the things I have to say don’t have much use to anyone, but they will almost always be more useful when existing as opposed to not (i.e. “unwritten”). Words have some level, however small, of inherent use and purpose. This use only comes alive when the words themselves do. When a writer articulates, he or she implies meaning, purpose, and value, as long as the words are somewhat definable and ordered. In this way, value is tied directly to the one articulated simply based on his or her act of ordered articulation. My words have meaning because I give it to them by writing them, although the meanings of words do objectively transcend my existence, and ultimately are determined by the eternal God. But at the most basic level, I convey meaning that is at least partially or imperfectly tied to my own existence. I digress, however, and perhaps it is more helpful to think not of my words, but God's.

When God articulated (spoke) the world – all people, places, and things – into existence, He placed within all of this inherent meaning, purpose, and value.

Even as the words fell from His lips, existence for us all happened, and with it, a value given implicitly by He whose existence goes beyond value. What a priceless existence we lead.

To Him be the glory.

PS – Take all of this to its logical conclusion for a moment. No longer must we concern ourselves with living a life that is (pardon my slight sarcasm) “purpose-driven.” All humans lead a purpose-infused life whether they like it or not. The best we can do is to try to live with a keen awareness of the purpose we already have, and the glory that every knee and every tongue, if not now, then, brings to Him that spoke its existence. From the most righteous to the most evil, each of us ultimately brings God glory as beings created, sustained, and restored (or judged) by Him. I am free from the concern of my own value or purpose, for it is hidden within my existence, over which I have no authority. The authority of Christ achieves for me a value and purpose that goes unsurpassed by anything I can conjure up on my own. “I am His.” No other statement can convey a higher value. No other reality can exceed this truth in worth.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Nice Whig

There is something more winsome and more genuine about British political figures. Ever since I first heard Tony Blair speak, I've thought so.

A new mayor was elected in London a few days ago. His name is Boris Johnson, which sounds to me like a strange Russian-English hybrid sort of person. Nevertheless, this guy is a joker. Everything about his victory speech - from his crazy hair and casual demeanor to his candid, complementary comments about his opponents, not to mention the awesome concluding remarks - spoke of a kind of genuineness and sincerity that I think is missing in American politics. He even made a statement to "the vast multitudes" who voted against him, "I will work flat-out from now on to earn your trust..." and later stated to his supporting voters, "I know there will be many whose pencils hovered for an instant before putting their 'x' in my box. I will work flat-out to repay and to justify your confidence."

Now I know that a politician is a politician is a politician. But there is just something that is enjoyable about seeing a political speech from another culture. It's just refreshing. Maybe we should switch leaders with the U.K. for a year and just see how it goes. They can't do too much harm, and they might even have a few good ideas to bring the from the other side of the pond.

Plus, how can't you like a speech that ends, "Let's get cracking tomorrow. Let's have a drink tonight."

I lose. We win.

Arise, O Lord, let not man triumph; let the nations be judged in your presence.
Psalm 9:19

I was listening to my mp3 Bible (read by Max McLean, about whose voice the jury is still out) on my way to Starbuck's today. I went to Starbuck's. Get over it. Have you ever tried Izze fruit beverages? They have them there. Anyway...

I was cruising up to the parking lot - cars on I-69 whizzing inches from me - and right before I turned off the engine, I heard the above verse. The following interpretation is taken somewhat out of context, but since I am no longer a Bible student, and a Higher Ed. student instead, I will proceed as I please.

Fun fact: Psalms 9 & 10 quite possibly were originally written as an acrostic poem, each stanza beginning with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet (which I know, kind of). Thanks ESV footnotes!

Digression over. The words "let not man triumph" bounced around numerous times in my brain as I made my way into the store. It's a prayer that I need to pray now, because I know that when I really need to pray it, I probably won't.

And when I say pray it, I mean for myself. In all my grappling with God - whether it be the sinful nature that continues to be at work in me, the submission of my desires and ambitions to His will, or simply my unrelenting unwillingness to accept things that are true about myself, about the cosmos, and about God - I need to pray in advance that I will lose.

If that sounds counterintuitive, it's because it is.

counterintuitive |ˌkountərinˈt(y)oōitiv|adjective
contrary to intuition or to common-sense expectation (but often nevertheless true).

Sometimes I like to pretend that I'm not competitive, or that I think sports are dumb. These are most often times when I find myself completely outmatched by those competing around me. In reality, I really want to win. I'm usually good at keeping my wits about me on the court or the field, but that doesn't mean that winning isn't important to me. I was reminded of this fact on Thursday evening, as I stomped off the field where my ultimate team had just been stomped in much the same fashion. In moments like that, there's nothing to be done that will assuage the anger/frustration/humiliation of losing. And then, as if it weren't bad enough, we had to hold hands in a circle and pray. Awful.

Really, inside of me lives a noxious rebel that wants only for himself to prevail, for his name to be praised by others, for his desires to be met, for his purposes to be achieved. It is an ugly thing, but it is necessary, as I have said, to pray for my own defeat now, when I feel a bit more aware of this rebellious fellow. He needs to lose, or else I will big time, ultimately.

I suppose that this brings a bit of clarity to the notion of gaining one's life by losing it: victory through defeat. I need God to win so that I will lose, so that, with Him, I will win; or rather, we will win. Really it's simple, and as usual, that's the problem. Those truths which appear to be - and essentially are - the most simple are those with which I most often struggle.

But God is just. He will ultimately not allow me to win when I do not deserve it, nor will He allow injustice to prevail. In the end, His righteousness (a.k.a. justice) will rain down:
Sow for yourselves righteousness,
reap the fruit of unfailing love,
and break up your unplowed ground;
for it is time to seek the Lord,
until he comes
and showers righteousness on you.
Hosea 10:12
Cool. I want to break up my unplowed ground now and ready myself for that shower, because I know that when it comes, I'll probably want to run inside out of the rain - when in reality, the shower is exactly what I need. Hosea speaks of preparation, making straight the way of the Lord (cf. John the Baptist, Mt. 3:3).

It's also neat to think about how the Lord's justice will bring about a righting of all the wrongs of injustice in the world today. This week was Social Justice Week at Taylor. I'm so relevant.

By the way, isn't that picture awesome?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

New Music Springs Forth

May 6
Barenaked Ladies - Snacktime (kids album)

May 13
Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs

June 17
Coldplay - Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends

Weezer - Weezer (The Red Album)

Singles Available
Weezer's "Pork and Beans" (available on iTunes)
Coldplay's "Violet Hill" (available FREE until May 6)

Other new releases set for 2008
Dave Matthews Band
David Gray
The Postal Service

My Approach To Graduate Studies

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

40 Days & 40 Nights

Well, I've managed to pull off my 40 day fast from blogging. It was tough, but here I am: alive and well.

A quick catch-up on life so far:

The NCAA tournament came and went. I'll say no more.

Spring Break to Chicago was phenomenal. So many lessons learned. Such a great team of students. My first legitimate trip to the Windy City gets an A+.

Highlights included:
- Broccicles: the answer to a healthier generation of Americans
- Gaining a better understanding of God's heart for the poor
- Driving to O'Hare about seventy times (or 3) in Taylor vans
- Challenged thinking about our role in racial reconciliation
- An exploding L train
- Tours of some of the most incredible ministries (especially Pacific Garden Mission)
- Slashed tires (I hate Wheaton)
- Great teaching from the staff at Sunshine Gospel Ministries
- Fantastic food (Chinatown, Little India, Chicago-style pizza)
- Conversations with strangers on public transit and McDonald's/Dunkin Donuts
- 18 wonderful students
- 2 world-class co-leaders
- More fun than a flaming barrel of juggling monkeys riding on unicycles
- Changed hearts with regard to how we should live in light of this incredible 10 days

The post-Chicago return to Upland found me in the midst of one of the toughest academic stretches of my life. Having only been back in Indiana for 4 days, I found myself leaving my wonderful Box at 4 in the morning to catch a flight for the great and wild Pacific northwest. It was a great chance to lead worship at Resonate Church, and to catch up with old friends Hatfield and Kinder. Seattle is a great city; too bad I was doing homework a majority of the weekend. The flight was quite possibly the most productive one I've ever experienced. All that is to say: I made it through.

The next weekend was National Student Leadership Conference here at Taylor. Speakers like J.P. Moreland and Kelly Monroe Kuhlberg made things quite memorable and quite challenging. It inspired my goal of reading one book per week this summer...ambitious?

Last weekend found me deep in the throws of Youth Conference 2008. The Bedinghaus Band (photo courtesy: Karen Taylor) assembled from all the corners of this great nation, including places like Pittsburgh and San Diego, not to mention Grant County Indiana, and rocked six straight worship sets, 2 marathon rehearsals, and 1 outdoor the course of less than 60 hours. In addition, we partnered with some friends from the Gospel Choir here at TU and had an absolute blast. The weekend was a great success, the most energetic, most fun YC I've ever been a part of (this was my fourth straight). It was also a pleasure to have fellow Jessamine Countian Travis Whalen in the house as the featured speaker for the conference, and the incomparable Rachel Sawyer at the helm (one of YC's co-directors). All in all, central Kentucky made its presence KNOWn...

This past weekend was Heritage Weekend at Taylor, as well as Grandparent's Day, the two-year anniversary of the accident, and the opening and dedication of our brand new prayer chapel here on campus. It was an emotionally intense time, but a good time for our community here.

On a final note, Barack Obama came to Marion, IN! I couldn't believe it when I heard he would be in Grant Co. Naturally, I had to go see this for myself. So we left early on Saturday morning to wait in line for 2 hours in the fairly cold April morning air outside Marion high school. It was well worth it. Barack is even more impressive in person (photo courtesy: Luke Owsley). Something tells me we will be seeing a lot more of this guy...I won't go more into this, b/c I could, and it could literally be 6 or 7 more blog entries on each of the major issues touched on during the 60+ minutes he graced the stage.

In conclusion, it's been a whirlwind 40 days. I've maybe had the equivalent of 25 actual full nights of sleep, but in the end, it's been worth it. All the hard work, the investment of time and energy, the emotional, physical, and intellectual struggle that has taken place, the spiritual challenges, valleys, and victories, and all the laughs, tears, travels, conversations, songs, and lest I forget, probably multiple gallons of coffee...these are the substance of my life as a 22-year old man trying to get through grad school, and of a sinner constantly being made aware of his need for the grace that comes only from a God who has made Himself known and has vested in me His own Spirit to equip me in fulfilling all He has called me to be and to do.

Life is, in the end, a beautiful thing, if for no other reason than our God-given ability to look back on it and say, "Lord, thanks for it all: the good and the bad. This is who I am. This is who You've made me to be. Keep making more of Yourself in me."

Monday, March 17, 2008

Locura del Marzo

(If you only have 5 minutes, please skip to the last paragraph and video at the bottom of this post)

It feels strange, this year, to be so satisfied with looking down at an NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament bracket, finding the name "Kentucky" and seeing next to it the number 1... followed by another 1.

We are an 11 seed,
and I'm perfectly okay with that.

The truth is, as most of you I'm sure are aware, it has been doubtful that we would even receive our invitation to this dance ever since, oh I don't know, the last time I was on ESPN.
I can remember the drive home from Rupp Arena that day. It was the second most miserable one that I can remember (the first being the time we ate at B-Dubs right before the game and had to leave at halftime...if you know what I mean). Hopes had been so high for the one called Billy Clyde. Now we were falling to the likes of San Diego and Gardner-Webb. It was almost enough to make a Big Blue faithful find himself wishing for football season (what?)...

Anyway, that was then; this is now. In less than three days, we will be facing a tough Marquette team in the greatest show in sports. And even though we are missing our best player; in spite of one of the rockiest non-conference seasons I can remember; despite coming up short in our first SEC tournament game, we have a chance. Clearly, one of the most beautiful things about looking at those 64 converging little lines is that they represent, above all else, the simple notion of chaos. "Anything can happen."

All that is to say, I think that my 11-year old self would be ashamed to see how relieved I am with the current state of affairs. A true Wildcat should never be content with anything less than a 1 seed, maybe a 2. A lot of people here (read "Indiana") don't really understand why UK fans seem to hold their team - players and coaches alike - to such a high standard. I will resist the temptation to insert here the obligatory Kelvin Sampson joke - you know, the one about including "high standards" for coaching and the state of Indiana in the same sentence. I digress.

The point is, if you don't understand why it is SO frustrating to see the University of Kentucky Wildcats Men's Basketball program performing at such a "low" level, you didn't grow up in Central Kentucky during the mid-1990s. It's a fact. If the following series doesn't make your heart beat a little faster - Delk, McCarty, Walker, Epps, Mercer, Anderson, Edwards, Padgett, Sheppard, Turner, Evans, Mohammed, Magloire, Mills - you don't get it.

Well, get it...

Go 'Cats!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Feeling Blue?

Good news: This album is still incredible.

About two years ago or so, I started to think that perhaps Weezer's self-titled debut - The "Blue Album" - only appealed to my 16-year old version. I feared that, as I grew older - wiser, more cultured, less apt to teen-angst, no longer taking weekly jaunts on the riding mower in my parents' backyard with my discman and huge headphones and singing my heart out - Rivers Cuomo and his gang of merry geek-rockers had grown, at worst, childish, or at best, something to be filed away under "nostalgia."

And yet, as I sit here at Payne's, taking a momentary pause during the grand production that is Research Portfolio, the simple, driving, consistent sounds of my all-time favorite band are still simple, driving, and consistent. I love it still.

I could go into more detail about why this piece of music sits atop the heap - at least in my mind - but I really do have to get back to work. For now, I will say that there is most definitely a prominent element of nostalgia/familiarity for me in this album. It's like putting on your favorite old t-shirt: the soft, worn cotton feels exactly right against your skin; the cracked and dingy screen-printing used to speak with a greater boldness and originality, and yet it's still funny; the various stains and holes a road-map of your life so far, each with its own harrowing tale of bravery, hilarity, and intrigue. You've had to save it several times from your mother as it hovered perilously above the trash can, and you've felt self-conscious more than a few times when you found yourself wearing it in a slightly more upscale place than you thought you'd be. But the fact remains: that t-shirt is still in your drawer; there are more pictures on Facebook with you wearing it than you not wearing it; and to toss it out because you had somehow outgrown it would be a violation of something deep inside of you.

After a while, every laser in every CD player I've ever owned probably didn't even need that little plastic disc to recite the refrains of classics like "Say It Ain't So" or "Only In Dreams"; it had them memorized. My speakers and headphones knew the chorus to "Holiday" by heart, and my fingers could feel themselves mimicking the opening riff of "My Name Is Jonas" involuntarily. It's as if the membranes of my eardrums were on autopilot when the guitar solo for "Undone" piped through the air, and I didn't even need to close my eyes to picture myself "In The Garage."

This afternoon, I put that old t-shirt back on and realized that, no matter how old I grow, no matter how serious I become, and no matter what new musical frontiers I explore, there will always be a 120 mm × 120 mm sized hole in my heart that can only be filled by one color...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

I really don't have time to post right now

And yet, I feel I must.

I've got more reading to do before class (in 20 minutes), but I just read the latest article on Jim Wallis' blog. It's about Mike Huckabee and his place "at the forefront of evangelical revival." He references this quote from The Washington Times:
He has become the leader of a new generation of Christian conservative voters. ... There is nobody else you can identify outside of Mike Huckabee as a leading person to take on that role, really in a new era where evangelicals care about a lot of things like the environment and working with the poor.
It is also interesting to consider the relatively un-conservative nature of John McCain's social policy. Is a shift occurring in conservative political thinking? Are younger Evangelical voters starting to make felt their positions? I'm interested...

Also, Barak Obama supporters make the coolest videos. Yep.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Talk amongst yourselves...

The Golden Delicious is neither golden nor delicious. Discuss.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

I promised myself this blog wouldn't be completely about music, but...

Wilco was on Saturday Night Live tonight.

I want to see them live so bad. I want to see them live so bad!
Jeff Tweedy wore a jacket covered in roses. I couldn't find a picture yet.

I'm using the enjoyment I got from seeing that to try and forget the pain of the news earlier today. Actually, it's just generally good for SNL to be back on the air with new episodes (even if Ellen Page was a pretty weak host). Maybe I'll actually try to watch the Kentucky game tomorrow...

Soon, I plan on having a post with some thoughts on things I've been thinking lately. Having a blog puts pressure on me to reflect, which I think is actually good. In the mean time, everyone go listen to Wilco.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Top 27 of 2007

Warning: Epic (read "lengthy") post ahead...

Now that we are a full 44 days (Update: 54 days) into the year, the Grammys have come and gone (yawn), and I have proven that I can maintain an album purchasing rate of 1 disc per week so far, I think it is finally safe to post my favorite 27 songs which debuted in the year A.D. 2007. For our latest revolution around the sun, this planet found itself treated to new releases from some veterans (Radiohead, Wilco, The White Stripes), second or third albums from some rising stars (The Arcade Fire, Iron & Wine, Ryan Adams), a few newcomers (Mika, Feist, Jon Foreman), and a couple very solid musical films (Once, Across the Universe, I'm Not There). Who made my list? Who didn't? Who prevailed? How big of an idiot am I because I don't include your favorite song? Find out now....

Top 27

27. "Wild Mountain Nation" by Blitzen Trapper (Wild Mountain Nation)
To begin the countdown, a song from these Pacific northwest newcomers Blitzen Trapper that tends to make me double check my iTunes to see if somehow I accidentally started playing my "Get the Led out" playlist (but then I hear the vocals and realize there is only one Robert Plant).

26. "White Tooth Man" by Iron & Wine (Shepherd's Dog)
You may notice that this will not be the last track from I-dub's latest release on the countdown. It sits here because it typifies everything I love about this album; in a word, layers. Very thick layers.

25. "Icky Thump" by The White Stripes (Icky Thump)
The amateur drummer can always count on the Stripes for a fun one to pipe through the headphones in the practice room. On the other hand, try playing Jack's guitar/organ (?) solo...

24. "Come Right Out and Say It" by Relient K (Five Score and Seven Years Ago)
I must have a soft spot for Matt Thiessen's songs about girls. Or maybe the classic RK style on this track resonates with the 8th grader deep inside me. Either way, I love it.

23. "Deathbed" by Relient K (Five Score and Seven Years Ago)
Proof that, as the band approaches the 1 decade mark, they have indeed matured significantly. They again show their versatility in slightly tweaking genre and coming away with something entirely new, and entirely impressive. Fun Fact: Jon Foreman's first of several appearances on the top 27 countdown occurs here... right around 10:01

22. "Two" by Ryan Adams (Easy Tiger)
Part of me feels like he's a little too country for me to consider myself a fan. This track even features a good bit of pedal steel, which is almost always certain to repulse me. Ryan Adams is just too amazing, that's all there is to it.

21. "O, For a Thousand Tongues To Sing" by David Crowder Band (Remedy)
This track also takes the award for year's best hymn remake. Bonus: It's a Charles Wesley one. DCB has already proven their ability to transform such time-honored classics into epic, modernized favorites for a new generation, and here is no exception.

20. "Something To Believe In" by Aqualung (Memory Man)
This song has been infecting me rapidly ever since my roommate first played it for me back in September. I thought it was "okay" then; its well-thought-out instrumentation and finely-tuned dynamics won me over in the end.

19. "Say It To Me Now" by Glen Hansard (Once)
Anyone who has seen the film will vividly remember their first encounter with the charmingly Irish Hansard there on the dark streets of Dublin. Anyone who hasn't seen the film should call me up and we'll watch it together. This one showcases his passionate vocals and double-time strumming that is just straight-up cool. Stay tuned for more...

18. "Apologize (feat. OneRepublic)" by Timbaland (Shock Value)
I am tempted to simply type the phrase "guilty pleasure" here, but would that be fair to the intricate and generally appealing fusion of hip-hop instrumentation, pop vocals, and a Coldplay-esque chord progression? Probably.

17. "(Fork and Knife)" by Brand New (Single)
The markedly more lighthearted, piano-driven follow-up to their last LP (The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me). This was a pleasant surprise for many of us who enjoyed "Devil and God" but were probably starting to do a little too much moping.

16. "The Devil Never Sleeps" by Iron & Wine (The Shepherd's Dog)
As catchy as I've ever heard Sam Beam. Completely different from the rest of the album. Wonderfully executed genre exploration. Smooth blues piano. Yes.

15. "Hey Ya" by Obadiah Parker (Obadiah Parker Live)
Here is the best cover to make the list. If you had never heard the OutKast version, this would be completely legit. Also, props on sharing a name with the shortest book in the Old Testament. Obadiah means "Yahweh's servant." Thanks Wikipedia.

14. "Grace Kelly" by Mika (Life in Cartoon Motion)
Not only does this song remind me of my little brother, who had it as his ringtone for most of '07, but it also feels like a (resurrected) Queen concert. There's even a lyrical nod to Mercury himself. I just used this word 2 songs ago, but it's just... catchy.

13. "Old Dirt Hill (Bring That Beat Back)" by Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds (Live at Radio City)
I can remember hearing this one for the first time, piped in through the atrociously obnoxious speakers at Starbucks. It stands out in my memory because I found myself asking the person across the table from me to actually stop talking for a minute to finish listening to the song (it was so loud we had no other choice...but I didn't mind). I immediately went home and purchased Live at Radio City. This is a fantastic version of my favorite song from Dave's latest (most mediocre) studio effort with DMB.

12. "Falling Slowly" by Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova (Once)
"Take this sinking boat and point it home..." The tune that bookends the beautiful relationship featured in Once, providing sonic context for one of the most memorable scenes in a music film (the one at the piano in the music shop, duh). Solid.

And now, the top dogs, the cream of the crop...

11. "Impossible Germany" by Wilco (Sky Blue Sky)
When I try to articulate the warmth in my heart that I experience when I hear this one, words seem to fall short. I've heard a good deal of criticism coming Jeff Tweedy's way for Wilco's latest effort in the recorded medium. Critics bemoan the cleaning up of his act, the significantly lighter tone of an album written post-rehab, the latest iteration of the oft-shifting collection of musicians that is Wilco. My questions include: When did we start criticizing (and stop complimenting) these guys for exploring new directions? Can we just enjoy the fact that this man has gotten his life back on track and is using his art to celebrate? I, for one, celebrate whenever I pop this album in my barely functioning car stereo (which is often). After all, music is about expressing life as it is, in all of its phases, mountain-tops and barrel-bottoms alike. The tone of this record is a testament to the authenticity with which Tweedy writes: he sits down in my passenger seat and tells me about how life has been lately; it's been good.

10. "Intervention" by The Arcade Fire (Neon Bible)
One of my good friends back in ol' Caintuck used to call me up on summer nights and we'd go out for Krispy Kreme and milk. We'd come back to his apartment and sit and eat and talk and laugh and it was all very good... so good, in fact, it made us angry. We would seriously just get mad. Maybe this is just me, but some things are just so purely good that they invoke in me an emotional response that somehow manifests itself as, well, anger. Maybe it's more like an exasperated joy. I'm doing a poor job of explaining. Regardless, this song? Same deal.

9. "The Cure for Pain" by Jon Foreman (Fall - EP)
See if you can listen to Jon's lyrics and not absolutely fall in love with everything that he is doing. This is the lead-off track from his first solo release, and it completely sets the stage for the four seasons project. I read in an interview that he wrote this song one night when he had realized that his band had been making music for about a decade. I'll just let this snippet speak for itself:
"I have been playing music in Switchfoot for about ten years. During that period, I have been fighting pain or running away from it in a myriad of ways. And yet the pain is a constant. I have had some amazing moments singing gravity away but the water keeps on falling. I began to think the suffering I see around me, I think of the pain of a grandmother dying of cancer. Of a friend killed by a train. I think of the pain of death, of failure, of rejection, the pain of a father losing his only son. And I came to the conclusion that I cannot run from pain any longer." (Source:
Listening to Jon Foreman will make you a better person.

8. "Remedy" by David Crowder Band (Remedy)
Something about the title track from DCB's latest strikes an indie-rock chord deep within me; yet it still retains the distinction of being an incredibly thoughtful and expressive song of worship. Major themes:
- Humanity's absolute need and dependence on exactly the sort of grace/rescue (a.k.a. "remedy") that God offers via His son, Jesus.
- Christ's incarnation and immanent return.
- The difficulty we have at truly understanding the previous two points.
- Beautiful instrumental swells.

7. "Boy With a Coin" by Iron & Wine (The Shepherd's Dog)
If you read Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" (2007's Pulitzer Prize winning novel), the images in this song should resonate in a special way for you. If you haven't, this song is still really good. It's a bit of a departure from Sam Beam's typically "stripped-down" sound: When I've played this album for people, they say, "This is Iron & Wine?" It is a more heavily produced recording, but I absolutely love the new direction. This album wins the award for most spins in my Discman as I read before bed (yes, Discman; you know you still have one somewhere).

6. "When Your Mind's Made Up" by The Frames (The Cost)
Many of you may have heard this one during Once (previously mentioned above, see #'s 12 & 19), but how many of you heard it before you watched it? Well if you had listened to Glen Hansard's band's latest album, you probably would have. Their version of this song is a little more electrified (not to mention more intense) than the one from the movie. I love it for multiple reasons, the biggest being that it is in 5/4 time. Dave Brubeck would be proud.

5. "You Are My Face" by Wilco (Sky Blue Sky)
I want to pretend like the lyrics to this song have some deep significance, but the more I think about them, they make less and less sense. And yet, I like them. They're so ambiguous that they seem to fit so many different situations, as if I could quote every line at any given point in my day and at least one of them would be relevant. Above all, the guitar playing in this song is just well done. It's the second track on Sky Blue Sky, but you really feel like, at about 1:30 in, the album actually gets going; it's as if the tap had been at a trickle before, and now it's really flowing. To fully appreciate, listen to the whole disc in one sitting.

4. "Reckoner" by Radiohead (In Rainbows)
Between Phil Selway's smooth jazz drumming, Thom Yorke's quintessential falsetto, and the driving rhythm guitar/organ, the aura created by this tune is, in a word, catchy: not a word I typically associate with this band. And yet, freed from their contract with EMI, and releasing the album with a choose-your-own-price scheme, Radiohead proves that they continue to make innovative, yet completely enjoyable (not to mention sophisticated) alternative rock music. Now if I just could understand what Yorke was singing, I'd comment on the lyrics...

3. "1234" by Feist (The Reminder)
I hope that if you heard this song (as so many others did) on the iPod commercial, you immediately went and watched the full video. Call me mainstream indie, but the chipper brass lines and meandering banjo featured here are just infectious. If you want to drive Kerrie nuts, just sing "I declare a thumb war" after the first line of the song. I learned that quickly. It's awesome. I have high hopes for future Feist fanfare.

2. "Lord, Save Me From Myself" by Jon Foreman (Fall - EP)
Listening to Bob Dylan lately has helped me better understand that to make music that really says something is probably one of the more noble pursuits to which a human being can aspire. In my humble opinion, no one else can do so as well as Jon; not even Bob. It would not have been difficult to simply stick his EP, Fall, at the top 6 slots on this list and just be done with it. But I think that "Lord, Save Me" captures the heart of the simplicity and truthfulness of his work. The prayer offered here displays a level of contemplative righteousness which I would hope to have every day of my life. I suppose I'll have to settle for just listening to it every day instead.

...and at the top spot....

1. "Keep The Car Running" by The Arcade Fire (Neon Bible)
I've thought about how I would defend this as my choice for the top slot on the list. It seems like the sort of thing I should do on a blog entry such as this. However, in lieu of defending the song's position, I will simply comment on what it does for me:

If I had to tell you what this song's about in a word, I'd choose "departure."

There is a feel of urgency that runs throughout the song, lyrically, instrumentally, and vocally. What are Arcade Fire so urgent about, however? Are they committing some sort of crime? Who is after them? Why would the be in such a hurry to depart as to keep the car running?

This song prompts in me thoughts of the apocalypse. There are images of visions in dreams of a city, of someone coming to take the singer away. Coupled with the notion of urgency is the exhortation to be prepared for something, a coming whose time is unknown. Listening to this with my headphones on and the lights off makes me feel like I'm taking part in the dream that's being described. The instruments convey the same urgent yet dreamy mood.

Ultimately, this song both frightens me and at the same time, gives me a restful sort of peace. It's the same feeling that comes over me as I contemplate the day of the Lord's return, or falling asleep, or even dying: it terrifies and attracts me all at once.


Well, that's it. I've not always given enough credit to some of these songs, and to some, I've probably ascribed a bit too much. Regardless, I can honestly say that each of them has been significant to me at various points throughout the year. Really, I think that music is so effective at evoking an emotional response because it can be so strongly tied to memories and events and people. It is resonant with the soul. The notes and rhythms represented above are the echoes of the past 365 days of my life, and each time I listen to them, I can almost detect them reverberating on the walls of my memory, like a sonic journal. Yeah, a sonic journal. I like that.

Other Categories...

Honorable Mention:
"Name" by Derek Webb (The Ringing Bell)

Songs technically discovered too late to be included (but almost certainly would have been on the top 27):
"New Soul" by Yael Naim (Self-titled)
"Fake Empire" by The National (Boxer)

Best electronic song:
"Someone Great" by LCD Soundsystem (Sound of Silver)

Best male vocal interlude featured in movie trailer:
"Girl" by Jim Sturgess (Across The Universe Soundtrack)