There's a lot of parenting advice out there. Some is great. Much of it is lacking. Some is downright harmful. With a 16 girl driving around, two middle school boys (14 & 12 yrs old) and our youngest son in 4th grade (nearly 10 yrs old), we've experienced a lot of success & struggle in our parenting. We've gotten advice from books, other parents, pastors, and our own parents. We've taken courses on parenting and had one pastor/wife and family that we learned much from and watched closely as they did so much right (radically different than most parents we'd ever seen). I wanted to share some advice for things I feel we have learned and that not enough folks are talking about. At its core, this list is a quick mind-dump of the practical advice I want to give parents with young kids after years of doing it. By no means do we do all of this perfectly. I assume you know that already.
This is probably most ideal for parents-to-be, new parents, and parents with kids under 10 years old. This isn't exhaustive, ordered, etc. It's not my top 10. There are some crucial ones that most who read this already believe and do to some extent, so I'll assume them (read Bible, pray, etc). What I will do is give one angle on each of those rather than convince you to do it in general. And while many tips are built on biblical ideas, I'm going to talk very practically and simply and not make this merely a "from-the-Bible" list. Also, I'm not dealing much with rules vs grace, an important topic. There are many things that could be added to this list, including things I failed remember. So your comments are welcome if you'd like to share your advice.
The first handful need some extra explanation so they are understood. The rest need little explanation, but I wanted to at least mention them.
Believe Kids Are A Blessing | Our world sees kids as a burden. The Scriptures tell us they are a blessing from the Lord. In your thinking about your children, in all you do as a parent, remember & trust that God has given them to you as a blessing. It will change how you see them and how you parent them. It hopefully will even change how many of them you have. Who wouldn't want MORE blessing?
Read The Jesus Storybook Bible To Them | A tool we didn't have while the kids were really young, it would have been a staple of their Bible story diet. Honestly, it still was.
Pray With Your Kids Concerning Taking Risks | Yes, pray for needs and give them models of prayer, etc. But pray aloud with them about the kinds of risks God wants them to take. "God if my boys sees someone being bullied at school, give them strength to stop it even if it means they get hurt." Something like that. We also regularly pray that God would use them mightily, even if that means persecution, going far away as a missionary, etc.
Teach *First Time Obedience* | When Dad or Mom says do it, they do it. We are the parents. They are kids. Why is this important? Do you want them to obey God the first time, or to put it off? Also, if they don't obey us there are often major consequences in the future. Sometimes if they don't obey there are major consequences in the very near future. Example: We taught our children to *stop* when we say stop. We didn't chase them around at parties or baseball games or at the park. We say stop, they were taught to stop or face discipline. One of our kids was bad about running through parking lots on the way in to a store. Our *first time obedience* teaching probably saved his life or at least bodily harm more than once. But the everyday, simple things will create disciplined & respectful kids. It will also shock people around you and create opportunities to talk about why your parenting "works."
My pastor once had one child ask for a chip (adults were eating chips) and he said "Ok." Another of his children overheard and came over and asked for a chip. He said "No." The child, without hesitation, said "ok" and walked away. My pastor then told him to return and explained how happy he was that he was willing to trust him and obey even when it seemed unfair, and then gave him a chip. That's the power of this one rule when taught consistently.
ALSO, don't use the counting rule. When you count you are telling your kids they can delay obedience. "Johnny, get your coat on. Johnny! One...twooooo..." Not obeying now is disobedience. Period. Well, almost period...
Give Rules For Respectful Disagreement | Some call this an "appeal." Sometimes the demand of *first time obedience* lacks information that might change our parenting. Example. Me: "Kids, close your books. It's time for bed. Lights out." Daughter: "Dad, can I appeal?" or more simply, "Dad, can I finish this chapter. It's only one more page." Me, to all, "Yes. When Sarah's done, it's time for bed." I'm Dad and what I say goes, but I also realize my call to obedience can be adjusted.
Give Rules For Respectful Interruption | You are at a party or with your small group and kids are constantly saying "Dad! Dad! Dad!" You are teaching them to be the center of the universe. We tell our kids that when we are in a conversation with someone, they aren't allowed to interrupt rudely. The rule is, put your hand on my arm and I'll tell you when it's ok to interrupt. Sometimes I keep talking with someone for 45-60 seconds before I say to my son, "What do you need, buddy?" Don't let your kids interrupt rudely. You are the parent. Teach your kids to respect your conversation and the conversation of others. This will shock people too.
ALSO, when on the phone DO NOT allow your kids to interrupt you. It's very disrespectful when on the phone with someone talking about something important (or not) and their kids have no category that Mom or Dad is doing something important that shouldn't be interrupted.
Give Rules For Being Respectful in Public | My kids were not allowed to be loud or run around restaurants while people are eating. It's disrespectful. Climbing on the booth next to me and annoying those around me while I tune them out is not ok. If my kid disobeys in public, I don't discipline in public. I take them to the car and when we get back inside the restaurant (or wherever) they have changed their tune. We have had humbling and amazing comments about our parenting in restaurants. Especially older adults, grandparents, can't believe how well behaved our kids were, sitting, eating, talking in acceptable levels of loudness, not being a spectacle. The spectacle was how respectful they were to others.
The Five Minute Rule (Warning) | One of the GREAT pieces of advice was using a 5 minute rule for preparing your kids to transition. Example: Kids are playing at McDonald's Playland. We don't just say "Let's go." We give them a 5 minute warning. This, to them, is permission to play longer as well as preparation that the end is near. That way when expecting *first time obedience* we aren't creating frustrated kids who were having a blast and then had parents drop the bomb on fun time. We almost never had an issue leaving something fun while other parents struggled and yelled. Such a helpful rule. This rule also works for bedtime, before leaving for something, etc.
ALSO, after doing this for a bit all I would have to do when one of the kids would look at me from the playground is hold up my hand with 5 fingers and they would call out to each other "FIVE MINUTES!" So, so helpful.
Pre-Event Preparation/Conversation | When going to meet with other people, go to a party with other families, go to a movie, whatever, we would have a short talk in the car. It was our way of preparing the kids for what was coming as well as setting our expectations for how they would act when they arrived. Example: Heading to a small group Bible study. We'd tell the kids where we were going, to remember to say "Yes Mam" or "No Mam" when asked something, to be quiet during prayer time, to be generous and let other kids play with toys, and so on. Set them up for success by reminding them just before an event of your expectations.
Titles of Respect for Adults (No First Names) | Never, EVER, let them call an adult merely by their first name. If an adult insists, you tell them (in front of your kids is fine) that's not how you are parenting them. Don't allow others to change your parenting. This is more obvious for family (Aunt Jennifer or Grandpa), but will show much fruit for everyday interaction. A member of our church will be called "Miss Gail" or "Mr. Ryan."
Use Timers | This may be what you use as a parent or what the kids are taught to use on their own depending on age. There is no "Go watch TV" for an undetermined amount of time. You get 30 minutes (or whatever).
Sharing Is Not Requested, It's Essential | My kids would always share. That was the rule. If another kid is throwing a fit, you give it up. You take the hit. You make the peace. This wasn't about bullying, but about making it easy for the adults teaching Sunday School, babysitting, whatever.
Boys Treat Girls Differently Than Boys | Boys are to be tough and rough and playful with boys. Treat girls with a kind of respect. Hard to describe this one, but talk to your boys about how to treat girls with honor.
Play Rough & Teach Kids To Get Over It | This one has done wonders for us. I played rough with the kids. Not hurtful or harmful, but lots of wrestling, throwing kids on beds playfully, etc. I still do it, even now that they are big enough to play rough back! When you do this and then someone at church or school is a little rough with your kids they won't whine, cry, tattle. They won't act hurt for attention. Teach them to handle rough play.
ALSO, my kids were taught that they were never as hurt as they thought they were. It was almost always true. "Get up." "You're fine." "Be tough." Many parents gasp and run to their kid on the ground who really isn't hurt all that bad but loves attention. My kids were taught to get up and keep going. Elijah got hit by a very fast pitch and it hurt him bad, but he tossed his bat aside and ran to first base. Later he told me how bad it hurt, but he had learned to be tough and get over it.
Kids Sit With You In Church | Some will disagree, but we taught our kids to sit with us in church from birth onward. Some will think it impossible. It isn't. We saw others do it and we did it. They were minimal distractions at their worst and often no distraction at all. I could give you a lot of tips on this, but the main one is to demand *first time obedience*, which means disobedience draws consequences. That's also why you prepare them on the car ride before church of how they will sit quietly, etc.
Ask Your Kids To Forgive You | You will fail. Often. Tell your kids that you do, when you do, and ask their forgiveness. We've asked our kids several times to forgive us for not requiring *first time obedience* (when we've grown slack), for example.
Kiss Your Spouse In Front Of Them | It blesses your kids beyond measure to know their parents love each other and want to show it. Comforting. Brings a confidence in your marriage when many of their friends' parents are getting divorced.
Talking Back To Mom Is Talking Back To My Wife | I tell my kids that if/when they talk back to Mom, they are talking back to my wife (not merely their Mom). She was my wife before she became their Mom, and that means something.
Hugs & Kisses To Friends | Teach your kids to be affectionate with others. Just this Sunday I told my youngest two to give Miss Deb a hug before we left church. No questions, they did. We don't just hug Mom and Dad, but a lot of people.
Disagree In Front Of Your Kids | You will have to ask their forgiveness when you do it sinfully, and there are times to separate & talk when we are struggling as a couple, but it teaches your kids that no disagreement will separate us from each other. It prepares them to get married one day and see what a marriage really looks like. Messy.
Keep/Give Away | Our kids have been taught to regularly do a keep/give away day. They go through all their toys and decide what to keep and what to give away. It de-clutters things as well as teaches them how to move on, how to be generous, how to not hoard, etc.
Teach Your Kids To Sing | Music has always filled our house, and we aren't musicians or singers by any artistic standard. But singing is a part of worship and so we make it a part of life. Doesn't mean it's always worship music. Hardly. But we are singing. It's common to be working in my home office and have a child start belting out a song at the top of their lungs upstairs. It teaches them to be loud in public worship singing too.
Teach Your Kids God Loves Them More Than You | It doesn't mean I love them less than I should, but that God's love is beyond comparison.
Get In The Pool | Play with your kids. Don't just watch them play. They want it! While on vacation last summer I got in the pool and would throw a ball as the kids would leap into the pool while trying to catch the ball. Kinda like a dog. :) Another family we met there saw us doing that and became our best friends while there. Every day the kids played with us as if I was their Dad. Their kids wanted to play. Their Dad eventually decided to stop reading and join us in the pool. His kids kept nagging him until he did! Playing teaches your kids they are important to you. It's fun. It has helped us to befriend others and bless families who don't have Dads and Moms in the pool.
I cut out some as this is already too long. Hope it helps. Would love your interaction on my advice and to hear some of your own.
My favorite song off of the Gray Havens' album, Where Eyes Don't Go, is "Where It Goes." I've seen others mention "Silver" as their fave. It's great & I love it too. Soaring moments & tons of imagery. But "Where It Goes" may be the best opening track on an album I've heard in a long time. It sets the scene, opens the conversation, leads you gently to the melody we are all meant to know. Listen & dig into the lyrics below. I've italicized the first bit because it's so good.
A song ran in the oceans of color,
surrounded by the stars inside the universe,
before it bursted into light,
And after a long time,
A world came alive and played that music I first heard,
And so I stayed so I could write down every word,
And there was a garden,
Never was such beauty seen in all the earth,
And not again until the day when it returns,
And there was a loud cry,
Alive were the voices as they sang the words,
And ever since they've been singing, It goes,
Underneath where eyes don't go,
A sound that keeps the beat that holds,
Alive the song I listen close,
Do I follow, Do I follow, Where it goes,
Towers and banners raised,
And kings with power changed that song that first began,
And it was lost, and buried deep, and covered,
Then, a chorus and angel lights,
Proclaimed on that starry night that shook the world,
A king arose, and he was singing, it goes,
Underneath where eyes don't go,
A sound that keeps the beat that holds,
alive the song I listen close,
Do I follow, Do I follow, Where it goes,
A model of effective, powerful communication...and maybe the best Super Bowl commercial I've ever seen. Never before has my whole family turned breathless.
Groundhog Day was filmed almost completely in Woodstock, Illinois, where I live. Here are a few fun movie facts as they merge with my life.
1. The Starbucks I frequent is right next to "The Pennsylvanian Hotel." In real life the hotel is the Opera House in which my kids have been in summer plays, I've seen Alejandro Escovedo play, I've heard Billy Collins read poetry, etc.
2. I've taken photographs from the tower at the top of the hotel (Opera House) Bill Murray jumps from in one of his moments of despair.
3. When our church used to meet outside of our church building a few years ago, we met in a ballroom in the building along the alley where Bill Murray tries to revive the "old man." It's right across from the "Alpine Theater" which is really the Woodstock Theater.
4. "Gobbler's Knob," where the prognostication happens, is the place on the Woodstock Square where my boys and I usually play "hot box" or "pickle" between two trees.
5. The Bed & Breakfast Bill Murray stayed in is a real Bed & Breakfast in Woodstock. Or at least it has been. I think they had some issues in the last few years.
6. I've stood where Bill Murray stood as he stepped in the puddle. You can too. There's a plaque. There are actually many plaques around Woodstock at all the main sites.
7. The restaurant & bar where Bill & Andie McDowell drink to world peace is now closed, though it was open when we moved here. You could (and we did) actually eat in a jail cell, as it's part of the Old Courthouse in Woodstock.
8. Molly & I have danced where Bill Murray and Andie McDowell danced. It's a Moose Lodge. Our dancing was way cooler.
9. The "Tip Top Cafe" has been many things since the movie. It's now a Mexican restaurant. A few years ago it was a family favorite place to go for gelato.
10. Woodstock has a yearly Groundhog Day event with our own groundhog, Woodstock Willie. He said winter is ending soon and announced it at 7:07am today.
The Bifrost Arts conference, The Cry Of The Poor: A Conference About Worship, Community, & Mercy, is coming up in April in Philadelphia. To get your attention (and this should do it) they are giving away their excellent worship album, Come O Spirit. IT ENDS TODAY. Please grab it while you can. I think you'll love it. I do. And consider going to the conference. Early registration discounts end this week!
Several circumstances led to this post. I saw Challies posted an interview a few days ago with a band. I ignored it. Then I got a Facebook message telling me I should check out the same band. I figured after two pointed me to it, I should go ahead and check'm out. I went to the website and something started looking familiar. Wasn't sure what.
Come to find out the band, the Gray Havens (Dave & Licia Radford), live in Crystal Lake, 20 minutes southeast of us. Dave was also on American Idol back when we used to watch it. After watching his audition again, we remembered him as someone who didn't do "pop music" like everyone else. And that was a good thing. Our northwest suburbs newspaper also put out an article at about the same time called "Haven Sent."
Honestly, I was still skeptical. 1. I don't generally go for "Christian" music or even music made my Christians. I was worried whether it would be creative. You know, art. 2. Can anything good come out of Crystal Lake? ;) I had that feeling that for the band (duo) to be this local, it couldn't be that good. In other words, my stereotype buttons were being pushed.
I have really enjoyed listening to the Gray Havens, enough so that I felt I needed to give them their own Music Monday post. Right now their album, Where Eyes Don't Go, is still FREE! I want my readers to pick it up. It's folksy, lyrical, redemptive, and joyful. I like every song. You can also support them buy buying on Amazon.
As I post this my family is loading in the van to meet Dave and Licia and enjoy dinner together tonight. I had to meet them. I hope you'll take a few minutes and introduce yourself to the Gray Havens. Stream and download free below.
The Good Book Company has released a new book in perfect timing to pick up cheap and read it and/or give it away with Easter just around the corner. Check out Passion by Mike McKinley. McKinley is also author of Am I Really A Christian? and Church Planting Is For Wimps. On Passion, a blurb, a video, & a few endorsements...
Walking readers through Luke's Gospel, US pastor and well-known author Mike McKinley looks at the events of the last day of Jesus' earthly life. At each point, he pauses to marvel at the love Christ has for His people; and shows how Jesus' people can learn from His passion, His care, and His integrity.
It offers a sweet series of meditations on Jesus Christ’s life-changing and universe-altering final day. It is an excellent read for both seeker and Christian.
Jonathan Leeman, Editorial Director of 9Marks Ministries; author of0 Reverberation and The Surprising Offense of God’s Love
...his insights are like nails!
Michael Reeves, Head of Theology, UCCF; author, The Good God
The cross stands tall at the center of the gospel. Understanding this deeply, Mike writes with an earthy, pastoral voice as he relates the drama of Jesus’ crucifixion. Thoroughly rooted in the beauty of the gospel, Passion draws us back again and again to reflect on these timeworn truths.
Daniel Montgomery, Lead Pastor of Sojourn Community Church, Louisville, Kentucky, US; author of Faithmapping
Other new albums you need to check out because I like their previous work and/or because of some really great reviews...
If you haven't heard new stuff from The Lone Bellow, I can't recommend it enough. Three videos of high-quality live versions of their songs and you will be sold. Their album, The Lone Bellow, is out tomorrow on Amazon. I'll be picking it up!
UPDATE: More videos -- don't miss these. Amazing. Beautiful.
Sometimes as Southern Baptists we simply outdo ourselves. The main article in today's Baptist Press release is titled, "Les Miserables finds support, caution in Christian community."
The main support comes from people like SBC President, Bryant Wright and Trevin Wax over at LifeWay. The article does end with more positive notes about the film, so I want to give some credit to Erin Roach/BP for that. But my concern is the space given to the main "caution" for the film. It's from Travis Ragon, a Kansas City counselor and grad of Midwestern, who...wait for it...didn't see the movie. I'll give you a taste.
Travis Ragon (pronounced Reagan)...said he is confused and grieved by Christians' enthusiastic support of the film.
Ragon cites elements of Les Miserables that he views as directly in conflict with foundational Christian values: instances of the Lord's name being used in vain, pervasive sexual innuendo, gratuitous depictions of sexual acts, and a scene that apparently has left some viewers feeling emotionally raped.
"Perhaps more than anything else this movie has become a review of where we as Christians have chosen to walk," Ragon wrote in comments to Baptist Press. "It seems that we have become systematically desensitized to sin. We are [accustomed] to the effect it has on our souls."
Ragon has not seen Les Miserables. "I try to research any movies which I might watch, including ones in my home," he said. "... I enjoy music and a good movie. In being a good steward, I try to be diligent in what I give my time and money to."
Seriously, Baptist Press? Please edit this article and remove the comments from the guy who hasn't seen the movie. You can't allow someone who hasn't seen the movie describe in detail what's actually in the movie! Even if you wanted to share an opinion of someone who wonders if the content is appropriate, to give it this much space is ridiculous.
As a pastor who saw the film with my four kids, I can confidently say Ragon's descriptors are inaccurate. Statements about the film's "pervasive sexual innuendo" and "gratuitous depictions of sexual acts" are way overblown. Inaccurate. Misleading. Why would you publish such a thing? It's no wonder why my neighbors think "Southern Baptists" are about what we are against. We can NOT see a film, give contrary opinions to the SBC President, and still get plenty of shelf space in an article. We need to do better.
Yo La Tengo was on Fallon last night. I posted about their new album, Fade, yesterday because it's excellent and only $5. They had two performances from the show: the first on the live show and the second after the show. Notice the drummer on the right in the first video from the live show. Pretty cool. I think that drum kit was used on Pet Sounds.
Dr. Timothy Keller's second installment in the eBook series, Encounters With Jesus, is out. Go download The Insider & The Outcast for $1.99. I just did. Also pick up the first installment: The Skeptical Student. These are coming out monthly.
About the Encounters With Jesus Series | "Those who met Jesus were often profoundly affected by their conversations with him. In his Encounters with Jesus series, Timothy Keller, pastor of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church and New York Times bestselling author of The Reason for God, explores these conversations to show how they can still change our lives today."
I've liked Yo La Tengo's music in the past. But it was just ok. I lost interest a bit and they've fallen off my radar. Their new album, Fade, is out today and on sale for $5. Seemed worth the money to revisit this creative band and see where they are. I'm glad I did. I really dig it so far. Really dig it. Plus, Paste says 9.2/10, Pitchfork says 8.1/10, AV Club says 83/100, and it's pulling an 83/100 on Metacritic. Solid reviews. Do check out Fade.
I bought Truant/Rough Sleeper from Burial for like $8, and it's now $2.99. Only two songs, but both are well over 10 minutes long. Burial is making some of the best music around, and I listen to their (his) music regularly. It's gritty, urban, electronic music. I hope many will check this out. Love it. Pitchfork names it "Best New Music."
Two great new resources from Tim Keller via The Good Book Company, both on Galatians. First is Galatians For You (also WTS), a book length expository guide to Galatians. Second is Galatians: Gospel Matters, a seven lesson study guide for individuals and groups.
From the website concerning Galatians For You...
First in a new series of expository guides to the Bible, Timothy Keller's Galatians For You walks you through the book of Galatians, showing how the gospel message changes the whole of our lives.
Combining a close attention to the detail of the text with Timothy Keller's trademark gift for clear explanation and compelling insights, this resource will both engage your mind and stir your heart.
The good news is you can get the study guide free when buying the book...
Get a free Galatians Bible study by Timothy Keller with every copy of Galatians for You. Simply add Galatians for You to your cart and you will be offered a free copy of Galatians: Gospel Matters at checkout. Offer valid until March 31st, 2013.
I've just started using Galatians For You for my new series of sermons through Galatians. I am using a number of commentaries for my series including Schreiner, Stott & others. This is the one book that I could put in the hands of any member of my church and they would find it helpful for personal reading & study, for teaching others, etc. It's not really a commentary, though you can use it that way (I am). But it also defines terms. From the introduction...
Any words that are used rarely or differently in everyday language outside the church are marked in gray when they first appear, and are explained in a glossary toward the back.
I'm looking forward to adding each new expository guide to my library as they are released, and they will be some of the most recommended books in my church because they are accessible to every Christian at every level of maturity in Christ. What a great idea! The Good Book Company needs to be on your publisher-radar if they aren't already. I'm not only using this resource; I'm using other study materials for discipleship in our church. Good stuff on The Good Book.
Tim Keller commented on recently viewing the movie version of Les Miserables with his wife, Kathy. It's short and to the point, and I'm only giving you a snippet...
I could make this review, very, very short: It’s been a long time since Kathy and I left a theater with tears running down our cheeks.
I for one am glad that millions of viewers will be exposed to the themes of redemption, self-righteousness, and self-sacrifice. Critics uncomfortable with the unabashed sincerity with which those themes are treated have mocked the film as “risible.” The rest of us can weep tears of joy.
In the short "review" there's more good stuff. Go read it.
$5 Albums for January | There are 2,000. Yeah. I'm not going to list them all, not even the great ones because there are SO MANY. You can check the ones on my Best Albums of 2012 list as several are on sale, including my #1 & #3.
And don't forget to check out my 35 Best Albums of 2012 along with a number of honorable mentions.
Here's one of the great rock stars of our time playing a full set of his music live, including songs from my #4 album of 2012. He's better live than on recording, and that's saying something. Here are songs from Jack White's solo album, Blunderbuss, as well as songs from White Stripes, Raconteurs, & Dead Weather. UPDATE: I can't seem to get the full set to embed, so here's the 20 minute preview which is also great. See full video here.
Owen Strachan & Doug Sweeney published five little books on Jonathan Edwards, or I should say Jonathan Edwards On...various topics. Four of the five are $0.99 for Kindle. Here they are. Go pick'em up for less than $10 total! It would be $30 to buy all five in paperback as a pack. Good deal.
I asked on Facebook, Twitter, and to one particular friend through email which books would be most helpful in thinking about/doing ministry to the poor. Here's what I got (with an attempt to put them in order of those most mentioned). I can't comment on most of them because I haven't read them, so don't see this as my recommendation. But you might want to look into these. I am. Also feel free to add more recommendations in the comments.
I have a booklet that includes both Jonathan Edwards' Resolutions as well as his short Advice to Young Converts (see online & Amazon). Most of us think of Resolutions this time of year, but his Advice to Young Converts is a nice, quick read and reminder toward what the aim of our lives as disciples of Jesus should be. Here are a few of my favorite points. He explains his points further in the booklet and has a total of nineteen.
1. I would advise you to keep up as great a strife and earnestness in religion in all aspects of it, as you would do if you knew yourself to be in a state of nature and you were seeking conversion.
2. Don't slack off seeking, striving, and praying for the very same things that we exhort unconverted persons to strive for, and a degree of which you have had in conversion.
3. When you hear sermons, hear them for yourself...
6. Be always greatly humbled by your remaining sin, and never think that you lie low enough for it, but yet don't be at all discouraged or disheartened by it.
7. When you engage in the duty of prayer, come to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, or attend any other duty of divine worship, come to Christ as Mary Magdalene did.
13. When you counsel and warn others, do it earnestly, affectionately, and thoroughly.
15. Under special difficulties, or when in great need of or great longings after any particular mercies for your self or others, set apart a day of secret fasting and prayer alone.
18. In all your course, walk with God and follow Christ as a little, poor, helpless child, taking hold of Christ's hand, keeping your eye on the mark of the wounds on his hands and side.
19. Pray much for the church of God and especially that he would carry on his glorious work that he has now begun. Be much in prayer for the ministers of Christ.
From last week's Best Albums of 2012 post, here's the same list of albums only listing the ones currently on sale. All are $5 unless I say otherwise. It was a couple days ago I worked on this so I'd appreciate it if you would let me know if any prices have changed.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Fiona Apple: The Idler Wheel... | Shearwater: Animal Joy | Father John Misty: Fear Fun | Todd Snider: Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables | The Avett Brothers: The Carpenter ($3.99) | Dan Deacon: America | Beach House: Bloom | Spiritualized: Sweet Heart, Sweet Light | Passion Pit: Gossamer | Lower Dens: Nootropics ($5.99) | Jon Talabot: Fin ($6.49) | Shovels & Rope: O Be Joyful | Grimes: Visions | Hospitality: Hospitality
35. Dirty Projectors: Swing Lo Magellan
32. Daphni: Jiaolong
29. Purity Ring: Shrines
28. Fort Atlantic: Fort Atlantic ($5.99)
26. Tame Impala: Lonerism
25. Aaron Embry: Tiny Prayers ($6.99)
23. Sera Cahoone: Deer Creek Canyon
22. The XX: Coexist
21. Now, Now: Threads
20. Polica: Give You The Ghost
19. Brandi Carlile: Bear Creek
18. Bhi Bhiman: Bhiman ($6.99)
15. Damien Jurado: Maraqopa
14. Propaganda: Excellent (free)
10. Andy Stott: Luxury Problems ($6.99)
8. Swans: The Seer
7. The Lumineers: The Lumineers ($3.99)
6. Richard Hawley: Standing at the Sky's Edge
5. Lost in the Trees: A Church That Fits Our Needs ($5.99)
3. Anais Mitchell: Young Man In America
2. Alt-J: An Awesome Wave ($5.99)
1. Sharon Van Etten: Tramp
Time for my Best Albums of 2012 list. (Many of these are cheap right now. Many $5. Some even cheaper.) It's my seventh year doing a list like this, and it's a lot of fun for me to think harder about the music I enjoy. I like to make clear that I'm just one audiophile and I can't listen to everything out there. But I hope by offering my list you might discover some new music. Please let me know your favorite album(s) in the comments. Feel free to ask questions, even dispute my picks, but if you want to do so please be gracious.
Some words about this year's list. I've have tons of good albums from this year. There are a number of them that I've listened to and enjoyed and ended up outside my official list. So I'm adding a long list of honorable mentions because there are so many worth checking out. Don't discount them because they are only an honorable! I don't mention anything I don't like.
Also, encourage you to check out Metacritic's list of lists for 2012 music. It's always so helpful in music discovery.
HONORABLE MENTIONS (stuff I really like): Plants & Animals: The End of That | Perfume Genius: Put Your Back N 2 It | Miguel: Kaledoscope Dream | Diiv: Oshin | Clare & The Reasons: KR-51 | Fiona Apple: The Idler Wheel... | Shearwater: Animal Joy | Benjamin Gibbard: Former Lives | The Followers: Wounded Healer | Father John Misty: Fear Fun | Todd Snider: Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables | The Avett Brothers: The Carpenter | Dan Deacon: America | Beach House: Bloom | Spiritualized: Sweet Heart, Sweet Light | Passion Pit: Gossamer | Japandroids: Celebration Rock | Lower Dens: Nootropics | The Walkmen: Heaven | Jon Talabot: Fin | Shovels & Rope: O Be Joyful | Grimes: Visions | Hospitality: Hospitality
SPECIAL MENTION: Tnght: Tnght | Only 5 songs (normal song length), so not officially considered for my list. But it's well worth mentioning. I dig this a lot. Electronic, heavy bass, dark with moments of piercing light. A sonic feast. Thick.
35. Dirty Projectors: Swing Lo Magellan | It doesn't get much more quirky & creative. This is some of the most unexplainable music in the world, and yet it's beloved by many.
34. Lilacs & Champagne: Lilacs & Champagne | It's a merger of, uh, things, and I like what emerged out of it.
33. American Gospel: Tall Tales Vol 1 | I found this back in May and blogged on it. I was intrigued by the name and then gripped by the music, though I hadn't read anything about the album until I stumbled upon it.
32. Daphni: Jiaolong | Head bopping. Bass thumping. Just go with it and have fun!
31. Pallbearer: Sorrow & Extinction | Slow, meticulous, dark metal. Doom. And wonderfully listenable. Well worth checking out even if metal isn't your genre.
30. Grizzly Bear: Shields | Tons of love for GB this year. Rightfully so. This is a great album. Just not as great as I thought it would be. Still shows up on my list as some of the best music around, but it doesn't demand my attention like several others.
29. Purity Ring: Shrines | A slow, grinding, synth heavy, danceable album. Wonderfully creepy.
28. Fort Atlantic: Fort Atlantic | One of the bands I think will appeal to many, yet I'm afraid it's been heard by too few. They tried to get your attention. It's very simple music for the most part. Folksy and mellow.
27. Fang Island: Major | This is anthemic rock goodness. We need fun albums that just fill our ears with heart-pounding beats and riffs. It can't be all serious all the time, though dreary and dark are components of some of my favorite music out there. With Major Fang Island tells us to crank it up and don't be afraid to fist-bump everyone you see.
26. Tame Impala: Lonerism | Getting tons of praise, and I really like it a lot. It's not anywhere near the best of the year for me, but it's full of wonder from beginning to end. I think I've said before, it sounds like something a young, end-stage-Beatles John Lennon would create, both vocally and musically, would he be alive today.
24. Vespers: The Fourth Wall | Few albums this year have been as enjoyable for the whole family. Listen, and you will be "Better Now." These guys can play and these girls can sing (and play). Decidedly Christian. Musically and vocally on par with the art of our day.
23. Sera Cahoone: Deer Creek Canyon | An alt-country style songstress, channeling the indie rock emotions of my #1 choice but in her own voice and style. An artist who is making great art.
22. The XX: Coexist | Understated. Quietly trippy. Understated. Mellow. Understated. Hushed. Understated. The sound of, uh, silence. Get it? Good.
21. Now, Now: Threads | Gloriously shoegazy. Probably the best trippy album of the year for me, though there are a few some might consider trippy ahead of this one. Very enjoyable.
20. Polica: Give You The Ghost | You can't escape the electronic thread that permeates this music and the vocals. Yet, it's compelling and rewarding. If you think auto-tune is only for hack artists who can't sing, Polica put the hand on the other shoe. It works and it's been a good listen for months now.
19. Brandi Carlile: Bear Creek | The most overlooked artist of our time. She's one of the great voices in music today. She's a great songwriter. Add the twins and Brandi's almost in a class of her own. This is music that should be everywhere and is gratifying both in the first listen and twentieth. (I dare you to not love this: "That Wasn't Me")
18. Bhi Bhiman: Bhiman | Haven't heard anything like Bhiman's voice. Few singers voices seem as necessary to the music, as the key instrument. "Guttersnipe" is so welcoming and wonderful, and yet it's sad.
17. J.D. McPherson: Signs & Signifiers | Throwback sound. Throwback style. Throwback fun. I challenge you to enjoy another song as much as "North Side Gal." Tap your foot already! Go ahead. Fill that empty pack of Lucky Strikes with gum and wrap it up in your white tshirt sleeve and grab a gal and head for the dance floor.
16. Mumford & Sons: Babel | Some are haters. Some are snobs. Some hear the same formula as before. I hear you. I felt the same when it came out. After joining the M&S bandwagon a few months before most Americans knew they existed, I prejudged this album as retread tired (get it?). But I kept listening, mostly because my wife couldn't stop listening. What I hear are songs that sound great blasting in our house and singing along. I've listened too many times to not have this in my list somewhere. One of the best songs and videos of the year: "Lover of the Light." M&S lack the genius of the albums before it, and some of the albums after it on this list, but what they do they do better than anyone doing it.
15. Damien Jurado: Maraqopa | From brilliant songwriting to his musical toolbox, this guy makes great music. Never has an album of Jurado's taken me on such an art-driven adventure. It feels aged and wise. One of the great male songwriters on this year's list.
14. Propaganda: Excellent | It's free, so you have no excuse. To support the artist buy it or give to Humble Beast. No song has provoked me as much as "Precious Puritans." But I'm probably not surprising anyone. But the whole album is a joy to listen to and enjoy, to be provoked by.
13. Wickerbird: The Crow Mother | This is far from a perfect recording (quality of recording). It's a little poppy and scratchy. But this lo-fi album is a treasure with its rich, dreamy acoustic songs. Indie lullabies. And it deserves recognition and reward. Beautiful.
12. The Menzingers: On The Impossible Past | A bit Green Day. A bit Titus Andronicus. A bit Flogging Molly. A bit The Hold Steady. A rocking, punky, anthemic, crank it up album. Yelling was never so compelling. And don't let the idea of "yelling" scare you away. Try it. I think you'll like it.
11. Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! | Four songs. Two at around 6:30 long and two at about 20 minutes long. Oh dear. Oh my. It rocks. It growls. It swells. It made a hard push at the end for my top 10 and made it.
10. Andy Stott: Luxury Problems | Versatile. I can crank it up. I can slow down and be entranced by the layers and layers of sound. I can study to it. Often I can groove to it. An excellent, creative wonder that rewards the listener. And it may even just haunt you.
9. Woods: Bend Beyond | Elliott Smith-ish, which is to say it's really good. Inviting. Subtle. Melodic. A great mix of songwriting and creative instrumentation. Whenever I've started this album I've been thankful I did and I'm always sorry to turn it out. Can't say that about many albums, including some amazing ones.
8. Swans: The Seer | Well reviewed, and a wowzer of an album. It's the musical equivalent to grinding an axe and, to trying endlessly to pull deep roots from dry ground while feeling the dirt collect in the sweaty crevases on your skin, to scribbling illegibly with a knife sharpened carpenters pencil onto knotty wood. Stop reading already and get this album!
7. The Lumineers: The Lumineers | Rollicking. Romp. Voice-centered. High highs, mellow lows, endearing middles. Everybody seems to love "Ho Hey," and why don't you? You should. It will win you over. But my heart belongs to "Slow It Down."
6. Richard Hawley: Standing at the Sky's Edge | I'm on a Harley cutting through thick fog in slow motion. I'm waking up in a log cabin and think I hear something ominous outside in the dark. I'm pulling apart a knife wound to see how deep it goes. Smooth vocals & heavy sounds. Moody.
5. Lost in the Trees: A Church That Fits Our Needs | Their 2010 album was #19 for me. Written in light of the suicide of his mother, frontman Ari Picker has put together a masterpiece. It's both ear-tingling good as well as thoughtful. It's moody. It's sometimes angelic and sweeping and swooping. Tragic. Hopeful. Considering the subject and substance, this is a gorgeous and rewarding album.
4. Jack White: Blunderbuss | This is the album that I think he cannot match. I don't think anything he will do won't seem like a disappointment. I REALLY hope I'm wrong, and I might be. But to have his body of work and then produce this masterpiece rock album? Wow. Crank it.
3. Anais Mitchell: Young Man In America | A favorite since its release in February, this album holds up as one of the best albums of the year. I even considered it for #1 just in the last week, and feel bad it isn't there. Wonderfully frontierish. It's American americana flavored with America. It's folksy, earthy music. True to its name. Anais' sweetheart of a voice is gorgeous. But she is also motherly, wise, above the story. And it's storytelling richness.
2. Alt-J: An Awesome Wave | Winner of the Mercury Prize (best British album), and deservedly so. Quirky, but not unapproachable. Almost surprisingly approachable. An audible spectacle. Creativity run amok and then harnessed (mostly). This was the biggest #1 contender, but just couldn't out Etten. This was difficult to put second.
1. Sharon Van Etten: Tramp | A brutal but beautiful album. Honest woundedness. Owning mistakes. A diary set to indie rock, harmonic moans of realness. Sonic emotional tension. Soaring sadness. Songwriting excellence. This album isn't easy. But it's great, great, great. If it sounds so sad, why listen? Because it's true.
Portlandia pretty consistently makes me laugh. This is a great new clip with a Jack White cameo...
I listened to Mark Dever's 9 Marks interview with Mack Stiles (& others) on Contact Evangelism last night. I was provoked to good thoughts on evangelism as well as some questions about my approach. I just realized I'm still holding a bit of inner dialogue on some of the things they said, so I thought it would be good to share. Books that were mentioned in/influenced the conversation included...
Mark Driscoll interviews John Piper on stereotypes, risks, & Jesus. This is the first question and the first part of Piper's response. Love this...
MARK DRISCOLL: WHAT WOULD JOHN PIPER TODAY TELL A YOUNG JOHN PIPER WHO IS GETTING READY TO ENTER INTO MINISTRY?
John Piper: I would quote to him V. Raymond Edman: “Don’t question in the dark what God showed you in the light.” Darkness comes. In the middle of it, the future looks blank. The temptation to quit is huge. Don’t. You are in good company. You are in the pit with King David. He waited. “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction” (Ps. 40:1–2). God will do that for you. You will argue with yourself that there is no way forward. But with God, nothing is impossible. He has more ropes and ladders and tunnels out of pits than you can conceive. Wait. Pray without ceasing. Hope.
For many people in ministry, waiting becomes a chronicle of ever-weakening faith because meditating on the circumstances will leave you in awe of the circumstances. They will appear to grow larger, you will feel smaller, and your vision of God will be clouded. But if you meditate on the Lord, you will be in greater awe of his presence, power, faithfulness, and grace. The situation will seem smaller, and you will live with greater confidence even though nothing has changed.
Pick up a copy of Dangerous Calling for 48% off at WTS.
This is a delightful recording of Andrew Bird & St. Vincent (Annie Clark) singing Bird's song, "Lusitania." You can find the song on Bird's newest album, Break It Yourself. It starts in a bedroom & ends on a stage. Gorgeous.
Here then is how the Spirit makes us wise. On the night before he died, Jesus told his disciples that he would send the Holy spirit and ‘when he, the Spirit of truth, come … he will glorify me …’ (John 16:13-14). The Spirit does not make us wise in some magical kind of way, giving us little nudges and insider tips to help us always choose the best stock to invest in. Rather, he makes Jesus Christ a living, bright reality, transforming our character, giving us new inner poise, clarity, humility, boldness, contentment, and courage. All of this leads to increasing wisdom as the years go by, and to better and better professional and personal decisions.
Go get Every Good Endeavor.
One of the great albums of 2012 comes from Anais Mitchell, Young Man In America. It will be high on my Best Albums of 2012 list. She just played a Tiny Desk Concert. This is an artist who is great at her craft. Enjoy!
Sometimes my kids think I don't understand their generation. Um, wrong.
I geek out for critic's lists (magazines, significant review sites, etc) of "Best Albums of..." each year. Metacritic does a great job of compiling them all with a final artist list of how many times they made a list, what places, etc. Then they award points for achieving certain places on lists, which leaves us with the Metacritic "best of" list.
Check out Metacritic's list of lists for 2012, just released yesterday. It changes as each reputable critic or site posts their list. This page from Metacritic is one of the best sources for checking out new music that I missed in a particular year. The lists tend to sway a few older artists into a place they don't deserve because of their lifetime of work, in my opinion. But otherwise it's solid.
Here's the top 10 points earners as of 12.5.2012 at about noon. Album link is to their list of reviews on that album. Click "buy it" to check it out on Amazon.
If you click over you will find their longer list. Scroll down to see top 10's from magazines, websites, critics, and stores.
I don't usually post my favorite books of the year as a list, probably because I feel like compared to music it's less complete. I tend to spend the most time reading things that are of interest, that's for review, or that's scratching an itch as a pastor or disciple, etc. It's not a hobby as with music that I can do when also doing other things. Much of it is work or based on need. So it's just different for me.
But we all have books that have significantly affected us during the year. I figured a "The Reader Speaks" list would be a great place for getting a variety of books listed that we could all benefit from. So share your #1 book, a few faves, a Top 5 or 10, faves according to genre, or whatever works for what you consider to be the best books of 2012. ALSO (per Jared Wilson's comment), feel free to list books not published in 2012 but that you read in 2012. If you have an affiliate account somewhere and you know how to link your books in the comments with html, feel free. For other readers, if you see a book you like, use the affiliate links. It blesses those in ministry around you.
In his new blog post about his book, Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller discusses four ways Christian faith influences and shapes our work. It is what he says is the meaning of his book in a nutshell. Here they are listed for you. Go read Dr. Keller's post, "How Faith Affects Our Work" for more explanation of these four points. And pick up a copy of Every Good Endeavor.
Bell told The New Yorker that the publication of his book resulted in a 3,000-person decrease in membership at Mars Hill Bible Church, which he founded in 1999.
Apart from the list of $5 albums for December, there are a few cheap albums out there right now.
These will all likely end up on my best albums of the year list...