This Side of Jordan- Mandolin Orange
I first listened to this record in the car on the way to Black Mountain, NC for a very special trip before Titus was born. I’m not sure I could pick a better soundtrack for Piedmont road tripping than these delicate Southern sounds. Knowing Andrew and Emily, who make up the band’s core, and Jeff Crawford, who produced it (as well as plenty other of the album’s fine players), I couldn’t be more proud of them or pleased with such a gorgeous label (Yep Roc records) debut. I especially appreciate the third track, “There Was a Time,” (maybe a bit of a Neil echo?) with its lovely piano solo and crushing lyrics (“there’s no gold on either side of the Mississippi/no silver in this world left to find/precious metals and precious memories/slip away, slip away from your fingers and your mind”). In the midst of loss and sorrow, whiskey waltzes, and clovers, TSoJ is a redemption-haunted album, looking for and occasionally even finding hope on Jordan’s banks.
Haw- Hiss Golden Messenger
True story: a few months ago I sold Mike Taylor (HGM frontman) a bike. I’m thankful he paid me, but I’m also a bit gratified just to get to imagine him weaving apocalyptic tales as he navigates our fair Bull City on that single-speed. Haw expands on Taylor’s previous offerings of Southern transplanted Laurel Canyon psychedelic folk. With a voice like Van and kaleidoscopic writing like John of Patmos, HGM has become an office listening staple. Maybe, just maybe, Taylor’s bike commuting signals something the record also communicates, a love and a tie to a certain place (the album title shares a name with a river that snakes just south of town). I found and enjoyed in this album the unique merging of some pretty lofty ideas and concepts with mostly grounded, gritty, specific people and places.
Debris- Roman Candle
Roman Candle was one of the first “local bands” I got into when I moved to NC. Little did I know then, when I saw them en-trance the packed Cat’s Cradle crowd in support of Wee Hours Revue, that they’d grow into an outfit (now in Nashville, considerably less local) that would follow so closely alongside my own interests and forays into the intersection of theology and the arts. Skip and Timshel breathe the kind of subtle explorations into beauty’s fleeting power and revelation’s mystery that folks like Rilke, Eliot, and Ms. O’Conner articulate most artfully. Logan’s musicianship and production on songs like “Small Time” and “Not Strangers Anymore” doesn’t just prop up those lovely lyrics, but at times actually takes over the storytelling altogether. I can’t recommend this album more. Get lost in the title-track dream and perhaps you’ll find out you knew where you were all along.
Joel’s Favorite Books of 2013
Due to parenting a toddler, remodeling a new home, supporting an entrepreneur wife and some other personal craziness, my reading suffered quantitatively, but I don’t believe it suffered qualitatively. Here are some of my favorite reads.
Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
I picked up this brilliant novel at the turn of 2012 to 2013, with a subsequent re-reading in the summer of 2013. Man oh man. I loved it for at least 3 reasons.
First, it is beautifully written. I found myself reading, and re-reading aloud just to hear the words roll off my tongue. I know that sounds weird, but trust me. I could easily fill an entire post of Robinson’s beautiful one-sentence masterpieces of language.
Second, Gilead is one of the most profound resources of pastoral theology I’ve come across. Robinson’s main character’s reflections on the work of the pastor were profound, moving, sobering and inspiring simultaneously.
Third, Gilead alludes to John Calvin often. I think this book presents a way of being theologically Reformed that I find to be beautiful, under-appreciated, subversive and right. Much more needs to be said about this. Stay tuned.
Unapologetic, Francis Spufford
I’ll join the bandwagon and add my accolades for this fascinating book. Spufford gives an “a defense of Christian emotions.” In and of itself, I find this approach refreshing and interesting.
Though I certainly don’t agree with every nuance, Unapologetic is funny, challenging, unsettling, moving, passionate, and witty. His re-telling of the Jesus story in the “Yeshua” chapter alone would be worth the price of the book. The refrain “more can be mended than you know” will reverberate in my mind’s ears for a long, long time.
TheoMedia: The Media of God and the Digital Age, Andrew Byers
Humor me for a second while I play for the home team. Andy Byers is a co-blogger at Hopeful Realism, a very close personal friend, and a mentor in ministry. In Andy Byers, I think the church has been given an absolute gift of a thinker/scholar and shepherd/pastor. I’m completely biased here.
Chris’ Favorite Moments of 2013
TITUS ELIOT BRESLIN
This year has undoubtably been (confirmed by Instagram!) the “Year of the Titus” for us. Since we found out we were pregnant in early 2013, through a hot summer pregnancy, to an early September arrival, and the last few challenging and precious months, we’ve truly known and experienced God’s love, generosity and grace in new ways. For this reason, the ‘Titus Event’ seemed too big to even belong on a list.
Mako & the Four Quartets (January)
Through some happy circumstances, the Gathering Church was blessed to host internationally renowned artist Makoto Fujimura in January. Mako was in Durham for the Four Qu4rtets exhibit at Duke and did us the pleasure of speaking to our congregation and sharing lunch with some of our artists. I cannot stress how inspirational his work with IAM, his humility and gentleness, and his imagination for creativity and generativity has been for me and our congregation.
Chickens Lay Eggs (April)
Last November Rach surprised me with a very special gift for my thirtieth birthday: three day-old chicken hatchlings. I thus began my illustrious career as a (sub)urban chicken farmer, by naming those three little ladies, born on All Saints Day, after saints (Ambrose, Augustine, & Basil…Brosey, Augie, & Baz respectively). After a tragic hawk incident (RIP Baz & Augie), and the addition of two new pullets (Jackie Joyner Kersey & FloJo!), we moved into spring expectant to hardboil our own Easter eggs. The amount of care, expectation, delight, and learning that took place over that time was really special to our family. It oddly put me and my one year -old girl Noa on similar footing as we went out to the coop day after day looking for the first egg, only finally (in April, pretty late for layers) to discover a lovely brown orb in the laying box that had been so empty for so long. Since, I’ve learned how to cook eggs about 10 different ways and we’ve enjoyed being able to gift eggs to neighbors. These hens have truly blessed our family and taught about everything from grieving to waiting to eating.
2 Funerals and a Wedding (Summer, November)
This year was a bittersweet year of firsts in my ministerial career. In the summertime, I was honored to officiate the wedding of my sister-in-law and now brother-in-law Ruth and Luke Taylor. What a joy to do their distance premarital counseling through Google hangout, and what an honor for them to entrust me with such a task as a newbie! I look forward to seeing God’s Love through their love continue to blossom and flourish in the years to come. Later in the year I was also honored to lead my first two funerals, the first for someone I never knew when she was alive, the second in November for my dear uncle Danny. Danny’s service truly encapsulated a remarkable and eclectic life of faith, hope and love. Following a packed church service with more eulogies than we had time for, we walked across A1A to the beach for a flyover (fitting for a career air traffic controller) and a paddle out (even more fitting for a salty lifelong surfer). The process of and preparation for these funerals has certainly been a source of God’s mercy and a reminder and vision of the sort of Hopeful Realism possible only by means of Christ’s Spirit and Resurrection.
Joel’s Favorite Parenting Moments of 2013
2013 was my first full-year as a parent. Here are some favorite snapshots.These aren’t so much flash-in-the-pan moments, but recurring moments. Sweet and beautiful in their own right.
My little boy looks at me, shocked, that I would allow such a thing. How often is it necessary to bring discomfort into your child’s life in order to do an ultimate good for them?
I chase Henry all around our house. There usually comes a point in which he realizes that he cannot run from me, that he will be caught. At that point, Henry stops and starts running toward me instead. There is a metaphor here.
Being loved by him
Henry is at the age where he desires to show love to us. Giving not just receiving. It’s been a difficult month (long story) and my wife Mandy was recently overcome with emotion. Henry stopped his playing, walked from another room, approached her, said, “hey” and gave her a hug and a kiss.
I’m learning a lot and enjoying a lot in this parenting journey.
Andy’s Favorite Fiction Moments of 2013
3) Thinking about the critique of media culture in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games Trilogy.
2) Realizing the Triwizard Cup was a portkey while readying Harry Potter
for the first time.
1) Revisiting Middle Earth after my wife bought me a hardback version of The Hobbit.