the best of 2006, part 2: the music
Sunday December 31st 2006, 12:44 pm
Filed under: personal, music

part 1 (the books), and the explanation of the series, is here.

the best song of 2006
tie: , and . the gnarls barkley song consistently caused me to sing along at complete full volume, and would get stuck in my head for days. i think i sang the chorus non-stop for four or five weeks. the system of a down song always, without exception, made me crank the volume. i finally downloaded the single, then the whole album. i liked the song anywhere, but it really seemed to fit well cranked while driving. oh, shoot: i think i’m gonna have to make this a three-way tie. i have to add a song; so let’s go with .

the best album i downloaded in 2006
i think i’ll have to go with . no other word than: brilliant.

best album i downloaded in 2006 that you may have missed
tie: debut self-titled album. dang, that voice! it’s like pure maple syrup, not the imitation stuff. and, the bad plus continues to be my favorite jazz band of the moment. so cool, so smart, so… ooh, how ’bout ‘intoxicating’?

best song of 2006 that you may have missed
take care of all my children, by tom waits, from . gospely, gravely, and great.

best musical surprise in 2006
family force 5. i heard them at one of our events last year, and was, i think, more disoriented and amused than impressed. this year, hearing them multiple times, i regained hope for christian music. the cd is good, but the live show is outstanding. and i was way-pleased to find what great guys they are.

most fun i had with a band in 2006
the odd and wonderful extreme pleasure of joining the david crowder band on tour for four days, past spring. posts here, here, here, and here.

any input, agreement or pushback?

to come:
part 3: the movies and tv
part 4: the family moments
part 5: the blogs

the best of 2006, part 1: the books
Saturday December 30th 2006, 2:20 pm
Filed under: youth ministry, faith, personal, thinking..., books, youth work

saw a wonderfully subjective and scattered post listing ‘the best things of 2006′ by j.r.briggs, and decided to create my own list. but my post got too long, so i’m breaking it up into multiple parts, which i’ll post one-per-day over the next few days.

part 1, now, are my picks for the best books of 2006, in random categories i made up…

my favorite christian book in 2006
tie, between , by david crowder and mike hogan, and , by anne rice. crowder and hogan’s book, which i gushed about here, blew me away on many levels. first (and probably most important to me), i truly enjoyed reading it. and i wanted to read every word. most books tempt me to skim at some point. i never once wanted to do that in this book. i wanted to savor every word, because the writing was so freaking good. the book also went outside the box in what the communication form known as “book” can do. see my longer review for more on that. and, then, i just loved what the authors actually had to say (which helps). the anne rice book, which i gushed about here, was the favorite of the 15 i read on my sabbatical (which puts it in a special place in my year). captivating and devotional, it’s a page turner about jesus. i await the next installment like some people awaited the next lotr movie.

my favorite non-fiction book of 2006
, by elie wiesel. of course, this book didn’t come out in 2006; i just read it in 2006. so it’s probably more accurate to say it’s my favorite non-fiction book i read in 2006. wiesel’s book was one of six i bought at the holocause museum this past summer, and i still hardly have words for it. i posted my first-pass thoughts about it here, and it helped inspire one of my more controversial posts of the year. this is one of those 10 books (whatever the other 9 are) that should be required life reading for every human being.

my favorite fiction book of 2006
, by nick hornby. this was the first book i read in 2006, i suppose, since i read it during last year’s holiday trip to detroit. here’s my original posted review. this had all the stuff i love in good fiction: fantastic stories — in this case, four interweaving stories, plus a story common to the four central characters, great characters, some humor, some weepy sad or sweet stuff, and just plain great words and sentences. mmmm. thinking about it makes me want to read it again.

book that changed my life in 2006
, by t. colin campbell and thomas campbell II. i will never see food the same way. i will — i hope — forever alter the way i eat. here’s what i wrote about it when i read it.
honorable mention in this category: scot mcknight’s . the book itself gave me a good nudge along my knowingly overdue journey of developing a more satisfying understanding of salvation. but what really pops it up to the honorable mention status was the combination of reading the book, then having scot come to our junior high pastors summit and talk about it, then have the 20 inquisitive minds of the summit talk about it for 2 days. my understanding of salvation will never be the same.

best reads for youth workers in 2006
tie, between , by barbara strauch (which didn’t come out in 2006, i just read it in 2006), and , by mark yaconelli. strauch’s book isn’t about youth ministy, and it didn’t even release in 2006 (i just read it in 2006), but the implications for youth ministry (and for parenting) are truly immeasurable. i’ve been thinking about this book all year — literally — and it has shown up in my seminars at the nywc, in my 7th grade guys small group leadership, and in several posts, including my review of the book, and this controversial post from a couple weeks ago (though i don’t specifically reference the book, it’s an example of the fact that i’ve been thinking about it all year long). yaconelli’s book, which i originally reviewed here as part of the book’s blog tour, is — imho — the most significant youth ministry book in the last ten years, at least. i really hope every youth worker, paid or volunteer, point-person or van driver, protestant or catholic, will read this book and be shaped by it.

any further suggestions or nominations or disagreements?

still to come:
part 2: the music
part 3: the movies and tv
part 4: the family moments
part 5: the blogs

cully got adopted
Thursday December 28th 2006, 9:35 am
Filed under: personal, family

DSC02355.JPGseeing scot’s post about returning dogs and zack’s post about saying goodbye to his dog of 13 years reminds me of cully, who we gave away last week just before leaving town. we’d had cully for 3 years, since he was a pup. he’s a kerry blue terrier. and he was just too much for us. in his three years with us he destroyed:
- two xbox controllers
- three pairs of eye glasses
- two cell phones
- one couch, one side chair, one table
- the carpeting
- multiple shoes and other clothing items
cully barked constantly, and ran away (creating long, drawn out search efforts) any time he had a chance.

but he was still our family dog. and the kids (more than me) loved him. it was an odd day on december 21, as we celebrated our family christmas in the morning, then gave cully away in the afternoon. he now lives in palm springs, california with an old gay couple who are big-time kerry blue terrier afficianados (they found us through the national kerry blue website). he’ll be getting four walks a day, tons of attention, and all the good stuff we didn’t seem able to provide.

so the whole thing feels like a sad, costly failure. if we ever get another dog, it will be small.

three silly books
Wednesday December 27th 2006, 6:17 pm
Filed under: books, humor

read three silly books of varying quality in the past week (two on my silent retreat, in between the three serious books i read), and one since i’ve been in detroit for the holidays (read the last one on my sweet sony reader).


this was weak. occasionally, i think the bitter folks at can create some biting satire of evangelicalism. but most of the time — and very much so in this book — they just come off as bitter and unfunny. not that there isn’t some funny stuff in here. but it’s a 1 to 10 ratio, at best, of funny to no-so-much. i found myself just feeling sorry for the creators, which would, of course, completely piss them off and cause them to write something unfunny about me.


this book, however, is what parody is all about. anyone who flies has seen the ’sky mall’ magazine in the seat pocket in front of you. this ‘catalog’ is a parody of that. and, dang, i laughed out loud over and over again. not a book you could leave out in your youth ministry room (be forwarned), but i sure loved it.


if you’ve never seen the mcweeney’s lists, you’re missing out. they are some of the most intelligent, side-splittingly funny stuff ever written. you can go here and read a bunch of ‘em. i’ve bookmarked 10 of them from the book, which i’ll post in months to come. here’s a sample:

Vegetarian Alternatives to Bowling.

- - - -


Hot potato



Soy bowling

1 Comment

i scored
Tuesday December 26th 2006, 2:55 pm
Filed under: personal

i don’t normally expect to get gifts at christmas that will leave me excited. i mean, it’s nice to receive gifts; and, actually, i’m a big-time “gifts are my love language” guy. but i’ve just kinda lowered any expectations or hopes in recent years. but this year was amazing. some of the fantastic stuff i received:
- a mont blanc rollerball pen
- a sweet wireless outdoor speaker
- a bottle of johnny walker black label
- a bottle of $100 tequilla
- a hooka
- a colibri cigar travel case (with a partagas 160 in it)
- a black tommy bahama silk shirt
- a sweet philip starck watch
- a really nice cordless power drill set
- a gorgeous pre-embargo cuban cigar (which means it was in the states prior to 1962)

a very manly set of gifts, don’tcha think?


thoughts for parents of young teens, episode 10
Tuesday December 26th 2006, 2:44 pm
Filed under: youth ministry, family, youth work

youth workers: feel free to use this in parent newsletters or email (with a credit line, please). this is my final episode for now…

Question: Our 6th grade son seems to have no real friendships. And I’m not even sure he wants them. Is this normal? Are there things my husband and I should be doing?

First, it’s important to know that this is a very normal situation for a young teen boy. In fact, it has become substantially more common over the past decade. So, your son isn’t “abnormal” on this one.

But, that doesn’t mean it’s a healthy situation. As a youth worker, it’s been one of greatest new concerns I’ve had for my students in the last ten years. Boys, particularly (girls also, but to a lesser degree), are not learning the skills of friendship. Historically, I don’t think we thought of children and teenagers as needing these skills – friendship just came naturally to them! but today’s 10 – 14 year old is so often isolated, they’ve not learned the skills of friendship in their day-to-day lives.

Boys are naturally less expressive than girls (especially at this age). And our culture has told them “the strong, silent type” is a great male archetype. Even the U.S. Army, which, ironically has learned – out in the field – that soldiers can only succeed in teams, has been advertising this notion like crazy for a several years with their “Army of One” campaign.

Add to these cultural notions the fact that today’s young teens have reaped most parents’ desire to “cocoon”, by having a house-full (or more likely these days, a bedroom-full) of toys intended for solo use: television, video-gaming systems, CD-players. Not that these things are all bad. But the fairly normal overuse of them has greatly contributed to this “loner” trend.

So, what can you do? Here are a few ideas:

Encourage friendship groups. Often, the safest place for a boy to learn about friendship is in a group, not in a one-on-one friendship. Hopefully, one of the best places for this is in a healthy and active middle school program at your church. I know many parents who have chosen their church based on this factor alone!

Service potential friendships. When you see any spark of potential friendship for your son, find ways to subtely encourage that spark. This doesn’t mean talking about it like crazy! (that will only lead to retreat for most boys.) Instead, offer to drive them somewhere; suggest fun ideas for excursions and make them possible. Also, make sure you home is a “safe” place for your son to have a friend over: a place where he won’t be embarrassed or treated like a little kid in front of his friends.

Encourage your son, but don’t nag. When your son spends time with a friend (or potential friend), say something positive – but keep it short and sweet. Lengthy speeches will feel like pressure or nagging, and will backfire on you.

Pray like crazy!


fantastic quote
Saturday December 23rd 2006, 11:02 am
Filed under: thinking...

“For every complex problem there is an easy answer, and it is wrong.” — H. L. Mencken

(ht to riddle)


My favorite Christmas song
Friday December 22nd 2006, 10:37 am
Filed under: faith, music

Read s l o w l y…

S a v o r…

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

ok. off to the airport to fly to detroit for christmas. nothing says christmas like detroit!


ok, just one ys staff christmas prom pic for now
Friday December 22nd 2006, 10:36 am
Filed under: youth specialties, personal, humor

jeannie and i as protesters…



evil and the justice of god
Thursday December 21st 2006, 10:51 am
Filed under: Uncategorized, faith, books

evil.jpgI suppose I wasn’t being fair to n.t. wright. Sorry, tom. I’ll admit, in hindsight, that I was approaching wright’s new book, , looking for a panacea. I wanted a simple thought or sentence or paragraph, or even a series of them, that would magically erase or answer all my struggles with the problem of evil. And, while the book has some really helpful stuff, it’s not the magic potion I was thirsting for.


Biggest surprise and disappointment: wright builds a case for, then repeats over and over again, the suggestion that we have no way of knowing – from scripture or experience – why evil exists and where it came from. He dismisses or dismantles many of our classical answers to this, but leaves us – leaves me – (and, to his credit, wright admits several times that this will be a disappointment to many readers) without an answer.

The bulk of the book, then, is about how evil is to be understood (not its origin, as I said) through scripture and in our present reality. He ends with two chapters on forgiveness (which, to be fully honest, seemed either a left turn, or a right turn, or, at least, a mile further down the road than the book title suggests).

It was a tough read for me on two levels:
1. I could tell fairly early on that the book wasn’t going to answer my questions in a way that was satisfactory. I think wright knows this, as he addresses it multiple times. It is what it is.
2. it was a tough read because it’s a tough read. I mean, it’s not volf, but it’s not ortberg either. I think I need a ‘wright for dummies’ version of the book.


previous »