2012 Top 5 Lists


  1. The Most and Simple Life by Tyrone Wells. We have a 1a and 1b situation…The Most describes the first half of our year and finding healing in the midst of deeply personal tragedy, and Simple Life is where you land on the other side of that healing. Great songs by our new friend! Killer lyric: how do you start again, when the whole world ends, there’s nothing that makes this right, but I’m on my way tonight, I’ll be here, when you need me the most (The Most)
  2. Handwritten by The Gaslight Anthem. My favorite band of the past couple of years. This whole album is about how we connect through music and this song is the best example of that in my mind. Killer Lyric: Pull it out, turn it up, what’s your favorite song? That’s mine, I’ve been crying to it since I was young, I know there’s someone out there feeling just like I feel, I know they’re waiting up, I know they’re waiting to heal.   
  3. Below My Feet by Mumford & Sons. The new album was everything one could hope for in a follow-up to “Sigh No More.” Big, anthemic, and slightly darker, Mumford proves they are not a passing fad. Killer lyric: Keep the earth below my feet, From my sweat my blood runs weak, Let me learn from where I have been, keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn.
  4. Born and Raised by John Mayer. Mayer had almost completely fallen from the graces of the music cognoscenti…to the point where he was essentially a punch line. Many may still feel this way (especially now that he is dating Katy Perry), but I dare you to listen to this album and not feel the pain of someone who has screwed up royally and who is looking for redemption. Here’s the secret music snobs: it’s really good. Killer Lyric: So line on up, and take your place, And show your face to the morning, Cause one of these days you’ll be born and raised, And it all comes on without warning
  5. Give Us Rest (the whole album) by the David Crowder Band. This was it…the swan song, the finale for my favorite “christian” artist, and they didn’t hold anything back. Too many great moments to name here, but I think my favorite tune is “Our Communion.” Killer lyric: all of them.

Books (required)

  1. Simply Christian by NT Wright. Wright continues to prove that he is the most helpful scholar for the layman around right now. Simply outstanding.
  2. The Road Trip That Changed The World by Mark Sayers. The first half of this book was so good, such great cultural exegesis, that I said out loud, to anyone listening: “this is the most interesting book I’ve read in years.” The second half (more conclusions than descriptions of the problem) were good, but not great and certainly not up to par with the first half. A fascinating read nonetheless.
  3. Intuitive Leadership by Tim Keel. I picked this book up because I thought it might be helpful for another guy on staff. I think it was, but it definitely made me think too. A lot of this book was a repeat of what you can find in many other “emergent” reads, but his emphasis on listening to your life and trusting your gut as a leader was challenging and affirming.
  4. The Anxious Christian by Rhett Smith. This is more than a “hey you struggle with this, here are some tips” book. Rhett tells us his story, which is pretty powerful, and then weaves several biblical texts into the mix to show how anxiety (really tensions of all sorts) can lead us to new places in life and faith.
  5. Emergence Christianity by Phyllis Tickle. This works builds on a previous book, The Great Emergence (which I would recommend over this title), and helps shed some light on the various expressions of Christian faith popping up around the world. If you care about where the church might be headed in the next 20-30 years you should read this book.

Book (non-required):

  1. Bottom of the 33rd by Dan Barry. This is the hardest top 5 list I’ve made in a while. Most of the compelling reads for me this year fall into this category. Barry wins for making an extremely boring, and unimportant, baseball game absolutely fascinating and thrilling. Joe Morgan (not that Joe Morgan) became one of my all-time favorite leaders because of this book.
  2. Life by Keith Richards. Richards is crazy. We knew that already. But what surprised me about his story (much in the same way Ozzy Osbourne’s autobio surprised me) is just how grounded he became once he found himself in a stable marriage. Like Ozzy, Keith’s marriage literally saved his life. I find that endlessly interesting.
  3. Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. Another book with leadership lessons in abundance. And another book that demonstrates the importance of a strong and stable marriage. Riveting, you won’t be able to put this one down.
  4. Quiet by Susan Cain. Quiet made a lot of “best of” lists this year, and for good reason. Her argument is lucid and well-researched. I, personally, found the book to be very affirming and illuminating of some of my frustrations with our extravert-tilted world. I continue to search for the restorative niche.
  5. My Korean Deli by Ben Ryder Howe. Funny and touching with great insights into race and class dynamics, this book is another in the same theme: leadership principles from unlikely sources.

If you’d like to see my previous lists check them out here: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006


Leonard Cohen On “Hallelujah”

From a fascinating article about Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah:

“This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled, but there are moments when we can transcend the dualistic system and reconcile and embrace the whole mess, and that’s what I mean by ‘Hallelujah.’ That regardless of what the impossibility of the situation is, there is a moment when you open your mouth and you throw open your arms and you embrace the thing and you just say, ‘Hallelujah! Blessed is the name.'”

Brian Eno

Brian is a weird dude. But he says some interesting things. Here are a few examples:

“Luck is being ready.”

“For the world to be interesting, you have to be manipulating it all the time.”

“It’s not the destination that matters. It’s the change of scene.”

Like a Rolling Stone (The Radar is On)

I’ve been reading Life by Keith Richards and it’s fascinating for all the reasons one might suspect: the inside rock’n’roll story, the gossip about Mick, and the revelations about where the songs came from (Jumpin’ Jack Flash is a good one).

All that aside, what interests me about this book is not juicy stories of debauchery and came-from-nothing-to-make-it-big exuberance, but the insight it provides about longevity.

The Rolling Stones turn 50 this year. 50 years as a band. That’s a great marriage. No one stays in the game (let alone on top of the game) for 50 years in the music industry.

I don’t know the secret to that yet. I’ll let you know if I find out. But along the way Keith has some great insights to a whole bunch of things…creativity, cultural change, doing what you love to do.

Here’s a bit about the creative process (he’s talking about songwriting but I think you can insert writing, preaching, anything creative):

“Because you are playing, working, every day…ideas are flowing. One thing feeds the other. You may be having a swim or whatever, but somewhere in the back of the mind, you’re thinking about this chord sequence or something related to a song. You might be getting shot at, and you’ll still be ‘Oh! That’s the bridge!’ And there’s nothing you can do; you don’t realize its happening. It’s totally subconscious, unconscious or whatever.

The radar is on whether you know it or not. You cannot switch it off.

You’re constantly on the alert…You start looking around, and everything’s a subject for a song. The banal phrase, which is the one that makes it. And you say, I can’t believe nobody hooked up on that one before!”

On Crowder (A Work of Gratitude)…

During the summer of 1999 I spent my Sunday nights driving over to Santa Cruz to attend a worship gathering called “Graceland”. I had just finished my freshmen year at Pacific. The second half of that year marked the beginning of serious involvement with campus ministry (through InterVarsity) and for the first time in my life, on my own, I was really wrestling with Scripture and Jesus, and what they had to say about my future.

I was beginning to grow in an awareness of a number of things including: the reality that I did not want to do dentistry. also, something was happening, kind of underneath the surface, in the church and in my generation.

I had no language or way to really quantify any of those feelings, but something was stirring and it involved a new way to think about and approach the church.

On one of those nights at Graceland (the predecessor to Vintage Faith Church, led by Dan Kimball and Josh Fox) a strange-looking, skinny dude from Texas stood up to lead worship. He and the band he brought with him played “church music” but this was not like anything I’d ever heard or seen before. It was loud, it was loose, it was improvisational, and, and here’s the kicker, it sounded like the music I liked to listen to.

In other words, here was a band that I might go to bar or a club to watch play songs about girls instead leading me into the worship of a God I was beginning to surrender my life to. As much as I admired Josh Fox’s ability to lead worship, this was completely unlike anything I had ever seen or experienced before.

The David Crowder Band has gone on to accomplish many great things in the last 12 years, they’ve grown to epic proportions and their influence has been tremendous. So, I feel like they are the one thing where I can say “I was there before…”.

DCB has been with me ever since. Their first album “All I Can Say” was copied on a tape and passed around our IV worship team…that album contained a song “Make a Joyful Noise/I WIll Not Be Silent” that became an anthem of sorts for our community.

Their first “major album”, “Can You Hear Us,” became the soundtrack to a senior year filled with difficulties: the death of friends, breakups, fires in the dorms, graduating and saying some of my first big goodbyes. “Our Love is Loud” became the new anthem. Shortly after the dorm fire, I think it was a week later, someone heard about a free concert he was doing in Livermore for a college group there. 5 of us hopped in a car and we were off. Best show ever. Crowder gave me a hug afterwards when I explained some of the stuff going on back on campus.

“Illumination” is, in many ways, one of the inspirations for this blog. Every time I listen to that album I think of my first summer at Mount Hermon, driving to and from Monte Vista, and going to the only Passion event I’ve ever attended. I went because my good friend, Steve Comer, was running lights for the show. Crowder and Giglio talked about raising money to do a free show in Boston. They really wanted to go there because they had a passion (pun intended) for college students and there were 250,000 students in Boston. This was the first time I had ever heard anything about this and I remember thinking: “I need to go there.”

“A Collision” is still the best album front to back of all time, in my opinion. Musically it is a thematic master piece, and theologically it is up there with any of the best books I’ve ever read (I mean, read this). From that point on, Crowder’s been operating at a different level, not only from other worship leaders, but from other musicians, period. I could go on and on about this album. Bottom line: it is incredible, it’s as close to perfect as an album can be.

“Remedy” became the soundtrack for Durango, and I wore that cd out driving to Albuquerque and back.

“Church Music” is a genius concept album, and Amy and I enjoyed singing our lungs out in a New York club on that tour.

Which brings us to the end. You can read more about “Give Us Rest” here and here…all I will say is it is the perfect ending to an amazing run.

Back to the beginning. The first time I saw Crowder, some things were stirring inside of me that I had no language for…years later I can explain it all, I can see the conversations and the books and the lectures and the conferences that have helped provide context for all the change that has taken place in me, in the church, in culture.

But back in 1999 I had no idea about any of that. I only knew something needed to change…both in me and how we communicated Good News to those around us. Crowder absolutely tapped in to that stirring in my soul and opened it up so something new could come in and take root. His music gave expression to that stirring.

We’ve been inextricably intertwined ever since. And while it’s sad to see them go (and even though I’m sure there’s still more to come in one form or another), I feel nothing but gratitude for these guys.

So, thank you DCB. Thank you for making great music (and it really is great music, not just great worship music), for building cathedrals we could step in to, for leading us in worship.

In the end their own lyrics express the genius of what they did so well:

And I’m trying to make you sing//From inside where you believe

Like it’s something that you need//Like it means everything

And I’m trying to make you feel//That this is for real, that life is happening

That it means everything//I’m just trying to make you sing