Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Top Ten Books

Bri Suitt challenged others and me to compose a list of my top ten or most influential books. I thought about it for a couple of hours, looked at my book cases and came up with this list. It is not in any order and I know I've probably left some books out, but these are all books I have either read more than once or would easily read again.

Surprised by Joy by N. T. Wright – this is the best book on resurrection, Jesus’ resurrection and the resurrection of the believer. Wright provides a biblical view of the afterlife (and the life after the afterlife). Wright writes of the New Creation that is awaiting believers here on earth. In light of that new creation, Wright challenges and inspires believers to be on mission to give the world a taste of that new creation here and now.

One.Life by Scot McKnight – I’m not a fan of the title (the period in between the words in the title) but this is one of the best popular works on discipleship. (I found it more “biblical” than David Platt’s Radical).

Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark – Stark is a sociologist (a Christian one). In this book, he examines how Christianity spread over the first three centuries after the resurrection of Jesus. It inspired me to think that Christianity could do the same thing today.

Soul Tsunami by Leonard Sweet – read this book in the late 90s early 00s. Sweet gave me insight into the world of postmodernism and how it intersected with pop culture and how it could be a positive thing for the church.

October 1964 by David Halberstam – Halberstam examines the cultural changes of the mid-60s and sees similarities in the World Series participants of that year: the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Yankees. The Yankees were coming to the end of a long period of dominance and were representing traditional/conventional values. The Cardinals had overcome a rocky beginning of the breaking of the racial barrier in baseball to representing a changing, multi-cultural, younger generation.

Sherman: Fighting Prophet by Lloyd Lewis – I went through a Civil War phase in the 90s. I was fascinated by this prominent figure of the War and his views on warfare and how to win.

The Mission of God’s People by Christopher Wright – Wright examines the grand narrative of the Bible and shows how God’s plan of redemption, beginning with Abraham, was about drawing a people to himself, teaching them how to relate to a holy God so that they, in turn, could model this life to all of the nations. He doesn’t skip the Old Testament in his discussion of the grand narrative that so many others want to do (i.e. Creation-Fall-Redemption [straight to the Cross after Genesis 3]-New Creation).

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara – a historical novel with the setting of the Battle of Gettysburg. Vivid portrait of the war with much of the perspective from Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.

Bold as Love by Bob Roberts, Jr. – this book shows how Christians should engage the world around them, including befriending those who believe differently than we do. Bob loves interacting with people of many faiths but does so without compromising Jesus.


Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller – this book is based loosely on Miller and director of Blue Like Jazz trying to reedit the book into a narrative (I wish they would have done a better job on the movie). In the process of trying to edit his essays in Blue Like Jazz into a story, Miller is inspired to craft a better story of his life here and now. In the process, he inspires his readers to write better stories of their lives.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Favorite Songs - 1980

Things are getting interesting. I'm inching close to high school. Music is definitely playing a bigger role in my life. Here are the songs that I remember impacting me in 1980.

Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads - one of the greatest music videos of all time. I remember seeing this video on SCTV. Was one of the weirdest things I had seen up til then.
Another One Bites the Dust – Queen - What a great bass line. Closest to disco Queen came.
And the Cradle Will Rock – Van Halen - Saw them in concert in 1982. I had some rivet-head tendencies at times.
Cars – Gary Numan - early New Wave song, iconic.
Theme from New York, New York – Frank Sinatra - The Chairman of the Board. Originally done by Liza Minelli.
Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime – The Korgis - One hit wonders, Beck covered this song for the movie "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"
Here Comes My Girl – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - this song still sounds fresh and he is still relevant to this day.
Talk of the Town – Pretenders - this was in the punk rock(ish) movie "Times Square". Horrible movie, great soundtrack.
Canary in a Coalmine – The Police - Saw them in '83 (and 2007). From the same album that had "Don't Stand So Close to Me". This song stayed with me longer.
Generals and Majors – XTC - they should have been bigger. Their lack of touring probably killed them.
Turn It On Again – Genesis - love the live version of this song (saw them in 85)
London Calling – The Clash - iconic (post) punk song with a great melody
I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down – Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Such a great pop songwriter. I liked his collaboration with the Roots this year.
Redemption Song – Bob Marley and the Wailers - I can't help but impose Christian imagery on this song.
Celebration – Kool and the Gang - if you grew up in STL during the 80s, this song holds a special place in your heart.
Hungry Heart – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - as close as the Boss got to pop music in this time.
Double Dutch Bus – Frankie Smith - is it sad that I probably remember all of the words to this song (or is it awesome?)

Just the Two of Us – Grover Washington Jr. - with Bill Withers, this was a great album by Grover. I wore this cassette out during my fusion/jazz phase. I still love jazz (not fusion as much).

For what it's worth...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Favorite Songs of 1979

Here is my list of my favorite songs (as best as I can remember) from 1979. Good mix of AOR, adult contemporary, pop and funk.

Heart of Glass – Blondie - the opening sound was so captivating
What a Fool Believes – Doobie Brothers - huge song from a big album of this year
Shake Your Body – The Jacksons - I would dance to this at school dances (and I would literally shake my body down to the ground).
I Want You to Want Me – Cheap Trick - everybody could mimic Robin's intro to this song. Live at the Budokan
Boogie Wonderland – Earth, Wind and Fire and The Emotions - this song is featured in Caddyshack
Lotta Love – Nicolette Larson - it seemed like I woke up to this song every day in eighth grade.
Goodnight Tonight – Wings - everybody was experimenting with a disco beat. This was Paul's contribution.
New York Groove – Ace Frehley - the best song by the four solo albums by the Kiss members. (Radioactive by Gene was second).
Lay It On the Line – Triumph - Johnny Schorr and I saw them in concert at the Kiel
Rise – Herb Alpert - an instrumental? Why not, it's Herb Alpert. We'll see him again.
Walking on the Moon – The Police - if this isn't my favorite Police song it's close
Take Me to the River – Talking Heads - great cover of an Al Green song.
Goodbye Stranger – Supertramp - from Breakfast in America, stellar album (could have chosen Take the Long Way Home)
Cruel to Be Kind – Nick Lowe - one of the more perfect pop songs of the new wave era.
Soul Man – The Blues Brothers - had the album, not bad (with Rubber Biscuit by Dan Ackroyd).
(What’s So Funny ‘bout) Peace, Love and Understanding – Elvis Costello and the Attractions - still holds up after 30 plus years.
Rolene – Moon Martin - saw this song on a list of hits from the year. Stuck with me.
Arrow Through Me – Wings - I love the bass line to start this song, I had the 8 track for this album
Water of Love – Dire Straits - could have been Sultans of Swing, but went off the path for this.
Big Shot – Billy Joel - they were all impressed with your Halston dress...
Dreaming – Blondie - couldn't decide on a Blondie song so I chose two.
Making Plans for Nigel – XTC - saw this on Don Kirschner's Rock Concert. Loved that show (and Midnight Special)
Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Queen - kind of an early Elvis feel?
Pop Muzik – M - novelty song that stuck with me
Don’t Do Me Like That – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Boys Don’t Cry – The Cure - I thought this came out later, one of my favorites by them
Shattered – The Rolling Stones - not the biggest Stones fan, but I do like this.
Good Times – Chic - best bass line for a pop/funk song ever?
Train in Vain – The Clash - They had a pop side as well, thanks to Mick Jones
Chuck E.’s in Love – Rickie Lee Jones - this song grew on me during that year.

What did I leave out?

Friday, September 13, 2013

My Favorite Songs of 1978

I've been obsessed with researching and choosing my favorite songs of the years of 1978 to 1991. I then find those songs and create Spotify playlists. It doesn't take as long as you think. I am going to share them with you over the next couple of weeks. Sample some of these songs. You won't regret it (or you will, what do I care?)

Deacon Blues – Steely Dan – from Aja, one of the best produced albums of the 70s.
Turn to Stone – ELO – could have been Mr Blue Sky
You and I – Rick James – there was more than Superfreak and Dave Chappelle
Reminiscing – Little River Band – biggest surprise listing of this year. I loved this song. I could sing along in my register.
On Broadway – George Benson – Love when he scats along with the guitar at the end.
The Groove Line – Heatwave – could have been Boogie Nights from this band.
Magnet and Steel – Walter Eagan - another surprise, one hit wonder, but it was a great hit that stayed with me for 34 years.
Just the Way You Are – Billy Joel – David Sanborn played the sax solo of this song on SNL.
Miss You – Rolling Stones – I know it was Stones’ disco, but it may be my favorite Stones’ song.
Stop Your Sobbing – Pretenders – this whole album is great, tried to pick just one song per album.
Is This Love – Bob Marley and the Wailers – saw a documentary on Bob on Palladia recently. I highly recommend it.
Rockaway Beach – The Ramones – don’t like a Ramones’ song, wait just 2 minutes and it will be over.
Life Begins at the Hop – XTC – one of the perfect pop songs of the 70s. They should have been bigger.
You’re All I’ve Got Tonight – The Cars – I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t realize Ben Orr sang so many of their hits (not this one though).
Can’t Stand Losing You – The Police – I believe Bruno Mars was trying to channel Sting of this era on “Locked out of Heaven”
Jamie’s Cryin – Van Halen – my first real rock concert was Van Halen at the Arena. I believe that the concept of a “contact high” is a myth.
Prove It All Night – Bruce Springsteen – I think many people of my generation (and just a few years older) overrate him, but he is still greatness.
FM – Steely Dan – was the theme song to a movie of the same name. Song was much better than the movie.
I Wanna Be Sedated – The Ramones – great pop song writers
Boogie Oogie Oogie – Taste of Honey – didn’t realize how stupid this song title was. Great bass line though.
Is She Really Going Out with Him – Joe Jackson – one of the pioneers of new wave music. Most ironic song on the list (google image search him and you will see why).
One Nation under a Groove – Funkadelic - takes me back to sneaking listens to Majic 108 FM (didn’t do that in my neighborhood). Great band name.

What did I leave out?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Some of My Favorite Songs of 1985

I was prompted to make this post after my iTunes shuffle stopped on "Voices Carry" by Til Tuesday. I loved that song and I brought back some great memories. So, to distract myself from grading discussion board posts, I quickly looked up a list of some of the great songs of 1985. Here are some thoughts:
*"Sun City" by the Artists United Against Apartheid - my favorite song of the year. Written by Little Steven of the E Street Band (or Silvio Dante if you prefer).
*"How Soon Is Now?" - The Smiths - if Johnny Marr isn't one of the greatest guitarist ever, then I don't know anything. (PS, have you seen the tumblr site This Charming Charlie? Worth your time).
*"Don't You Forget About Me" - from The Breakfast Club, an anthem for people in their late teens.
*"This Time" - INXS - over looked song by them that surprises me how much I liked.
*"In Between Days"- The Cure - funny, at the time, I liked The Cure more than The Smiths. That is not the case today.
*"Bad" - U2 - for awhile, this was my favorite U2 song. I bought Unforgettable Fire for my brother for Christmas. I listened to it more than he did.
*"Stay Up Late" by the Talking Heads - Little Creatures had some great songs, this was one and "The Lady Don't Mind" was overlooked.
*"Be Near Me" - by ABC - I know it's a love song, and I don't seem to be the love song type, but I still love this song.
*"Fortress Around My Heart" - Sting - made my original top ten favorite songs of all time. I saw him perform this live in 1985 at the Muny in Forest Park in St Louis. For a long time, that was my favorite concert.
*"Slave to Love" - I'm a fan of Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music.
*"Can't Get There from Here" - REM - When the world's a monster/bad to swallow you whole...
*"Tenderness" - General Public - who didn't love Ranking Roger's hair?
*"To Live and Die in LA" - Wang Chung - title song from the movie which had one of the greatest car chase scenes ever.
*"One World" - Dire Straits - Brothers in Arms was a huge album that year. Best song on it.
*"Do They Know It's Christmas" - Band Aid - although Bono comes across as a little self righteous "Tonight thank God it's them, instead of you!" Why couldn't he say, "instead of us"? That's always bothered me.

Thanks for indulging me.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Great Songs under 155 Seconds

I was thinking how much I love short pop songs. These are the kind of songs that you hate when they are over. I went through my digital music library and I pulled out some of my favorite songs that are under 2:35. Why that number? I wanted to keep it under 2 minutes, thirty seconds but I bumped it up five more seconds. Here they are:

Under Two Minutes
Gimme Shock Treatment (1:53) - The Ramones - could have been 25 of their songs.
Five Feet High and Rising (1:49) - shortest Johnny Cash song, we'll see another one.
Fell in Love with a Girl (1:50) - One of the best pop songs of the early 00s. Guitar and drums. Short, simple, brilliant.
I’ll Follow the Sun (1:50) - first Beatles song. A lot of their early catalog was under 2:30.
Crazy for You – Best Coast (1:52) - one of the more recent songs. I think they are coming to Columbia soon.

Under Two Minutes Thirty Seconds
Walkin’ After Midnight (2:01) - a Patsy Cline favorite.
And Your Bird Can Sing (2:01) - underrated Beatles song.
Girlfriend in a Coma (2:04) - The Smiths had a few songs under 2:30. One of their most popular here.
For No One (2:05) - The Beatles - Is that a french horn on that song? (Yes it is).
I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down (2:06) - Elvis Costello - A great pop song writer.
Pink Moon (2:06) - Nick Drake - more well known for being in a VW ad in the 90s.
His Latest Flame (2:11) - Early Elvis is hard to beat.
Another Girl (2:12) - not fair, another Beatles song.
Blitzkrieg Bop (2:11) - one of the more recognizable Ramones' songs (Hey! Ho! Let's Go!)
Ain’t Got Nothin (2:15) - was glad to be able to include a song by Oasis (off their last [ever?] release)
Question (2:15) - Old 97s - I bet this gets played a lot by guys about to propose.
Don’t Panic (2:17) - Coldplay - opening song in Garden State
Ace of Spades (2:17) - not from Motorhead but guitar twang virtuoso Link Wray.
I Feel Fine (2:18) - Sorry, another Beatles' song.
I Kicked a Boy (2:19) - Sweet sounding song from The Sundays.
Agua de Beber (2:20) - Astrud Gilberto - I got into a bossa nova kick a while back.
Not Fade Away (2:21) - Buddy Holly and the Crickets. I believe the guy on the drums is just hitting a big cardboard box.
Level (2:21) - I know people who hated The Raconteurs. I liked this song and Steady as She Goes.
No Depression (2:21) - written by the Carter family, but this is Uncle Tupelo's verson.
Happy Hour (2:22) - The Housemartins - infectious pop song from the mid-80s.
Connection (2:23) - Elastica - I couldn't get this song out of my mind in the early 90s.
Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain (2:24) - Willie Nelson - my favorite song by him.
Runaway (2:24) - Del Shannon - if there was a canon of American pop music, this would have to be included, right?
Everybody Knows (2:25) - Ryan Adams - I hate it when this song ends
Oregon Girl (2:26) - Put Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin on the map.
Gone Daddy Gone (2:28) - the Gnarls Barkley version.
Cry, Cry, Cry (2:29) - one of Johnny Cash's best early songs (in my opinion).

From Two Thirty to Two Thirty Five
Canary in a Coalmine (2:30) - The Police - saw them in concert in 1983 (and 2007)
Why Do You Let Me Stay Here (2:31) - She and Him - can't explain it, but I like this song
Fly Me to the Moon (2:32) - The Chairman of the Board!
Mambo Italiano (2:34) - Rosemary Clooney - again, can't explain why this song is in my library
Ain’t Too Proud to Beg (2:34) - The Temptations - one of the classic Motown songs
Outtasite (Outta Mind) (2:35) - Wilco - I had to stretch it to get Wilco on here.

Friday, April 12, 2013

When I Told the Atheist I Would Kill Him...


(Or, what I should have said was…)

In the words of Alanis Morrisette: “I recommend biting off more that you can chew to anyone (I certainly do)." That’s what I did this past week. I accepted an opportunity to dialogue with an atheist on the topic “Should You Believe in the Resurrection” at the Baptist Student Center at Missouri State University. I was paired with JT Eberhard who is a speaker for the Secular Student Alliance and blogs at www.patheos/blogs/wwjtd. You can also find many of his debates and presentations on YouTube.

Although I do believe JT was being somewhat kind to me and not as vicious as his reputation, I do think I was doing all right in the discussion. I’ll admit, I didn’t always have answers to his points about science as the answer to everything, my goal was to give a viable reason why I believe in the resurrection, and my reason was grounded in historical method and not science.

There came a time near the end of the night when the subject veered off of the resurrection and on to morality. The subject of the morality of Abraham’s decision to sacrifice his son came up. JT turned the question to me. Granted there is a God, and he told me to kill him (JT), would I do it. I hemmed and hawed. I didn’t know how to answer the question. If I said no, then I admit that I am more moral than God and don’t need him to make moral decisions. If I said yes, I reveal myself to be no different than someone like Andrea Yates (who drowned her children in a bathtub because “god” told her). We obviously don’t believe God told Andrea Yates that, and that is why it is hard to believe in anyone who tells you that God told them anything (especially when it comes to claims of the supernatural). I started by saying I felt the demand was something I felt that was out of character for what I knew of God on this side of the cross. But for some reason, I felt compelled to answer. I took the bait, and said yes, if God himself told me to kill JT, I probably would. And immediately I knew it was the wrong answer. The crowd (probably more skeptics than Christians) gasped. The BSU director threw his head back with his mouth agape as if to say, “I can’t believe you said that!” And of course, JT pounced. It is irrational to believe in the stories of the Bible where God tells someone to kill just as we wouldn’t believe Andrea Yates.

I backtracked, admitted that I made a mistake and wished that I could answer again, but I didn’t feel that was fair. I said that the question was hard to answer because it was out of character for God. What I wish I had said was that I would probably not do it, for that very reason. The request was out of character for my understanding of the nature of God revealed through the person of Jesus Christ. I would decline the command and throw myself on His mercy. I would assume that there must be something wrong with me if I thought that God was asking me to do something like this. Perhaps I should have just refused the question, because it is an impossibility. You cannot imagine how many times I have kicked myself since last night.

I definitely was out of my element last night. And that’s okay. I have very little experience in those of settings. It is amazing, however, how clever I was on the three-hour ride back home last night. I could think of many answers to the questions that were posed to me by both JT and the skeptics in the audience. If I want to continue doing this sort of thing, I guess I’ll need to get my reps in. (It will remain to be seen whether I want to continue to do this sort of thing, or even after this performance, anyone would even ask me to be a part. It will be on YouTube soon, so you can see the train wreck yourself).

The experience was truly humbling and challenging as well. I interacted with sources that I normally do not. I went into the evening with the goal of representing Jesus well. I was asked to take part in this event, not because of my debating skills, but because of my relationship with the Christian campus director and his feeling that I would come across knowledgeable, but I would not damage relationships that he has been building with the skeptic community at Missouri State University. And while I did not match wits at time very well with JT, later I was told by several skeptics that I came across as cordial, honest and humble. I knew I wouldn’t win a debate, but if what they said about me was true, I met part of my goal.