With the year concluding I thought I would offer the best I encountered in 2008.
Best Book – The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards. After reading this book I was simply amazed not only at Edwards razor-sharp logic and theological prowess but the book’s ability to speak to the current spiritual malaise we find today. This 18th Century text has been deemed a classic for a reason. I’m sure I’ll be turning to this one again and again as the years go by.
- Honorable Mention – Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin. This is the book on worship that I wish I would’ve written. Kauflin, informed by years of experience as pastor and worship leader, deftly leads the reader on a journey of what biblical worship should look like in the local church. His thoughts on music, sound doctrine and discernment when it comes to corporate worship are must-reading for any church leadership. Yes, it’s that’s good! My review of Kauflin’s book is here. A second Honorable Mention would go to Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. See post here.
Best Album – For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver. This Wisconsin indie-group has put together a masterful work that is both haunting and melancholic. I’ve had it for almost the entire year and still love listening to it over and over.
Best Worship Album – Before The Throne by Sojourn Music. This is anything but the cheap, syrupy, campy schlock that the worship industry often spews out (See this post for my rant on music and the church). Created by the music team at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky, BTT is an album that feels both modern and firmly regional. I adore the arrangement of the title track and Brooks Ritter’s vocals are a perfect compliment to the instrumentation on several of the songs. This album emanates originality and sincerity. Sojourn’s version of Charitie Lees Bancroft and Vikki Cook’s tune in Before The Throne has been my favorite song of 2008.
Best Concert – Radiohead. On May 17th I had the privilege to watch the greatest band on the face of the planet perform at Cynthia Woods Pavillion. Yes, it was Radiohead, my favorite band for well over a decade. I love their latest critically acclaimed album In Rainbows. Of course, I love about anything they put out; however, I was pumped to see them in Houston. Their show was phenomenal; 24 songs later…yes, 24 songs!…it was over and I was, once again, elated to have seen the best band around.
Best Movie – Wall-E. Interstingly, I saw this movie for the first time over the Christmas holiday, and still I thought it was one of the best movies I’d seen over 2008. Granted, I don’t see many movies. It’s not that I don’t like movies, I don’t happen to have that kind of time that my current schedule affords (and money, dang those things are expensive ). With that said, Wall-E was a wonderfully well-crafted story with characters that simply stuck to your heart. It was a sweet (did I say that?) movie and one I’m sure I’ll see a hundred more times with my kids. It seems I’m not the only one who thought this flick was that good. Check out what movie film critic Tom Charity of Rotten Tomatoes picked as the best flick of 2008.
- Honorable Mention – No Country for Old Men. I know this is a 2007 movie but I saw it over the summer of 2008. The Cohen brothers’ film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel is spellbinding. The cinematography is stunning and if you’re a Texan who’s spent any time in the Texas Hill Country or made your way to the “wilderness” of the El Paso area. The acting is superb…almost too good in the case of Javier Bardem, who plays conscience-less killer Chigurh. The movie’s minimalist approach (e.g., no soundtrack) is perfect. I saw this movie with a group of my closest friends and the verdict was out on whether or not this was a good film. Those who said no pointed to the story’s unhappy, unresolved ending, which was exactly the reason the other side loved it. I guess you can tell which side I was on. This was a masterful picture dealing with the “not yet” of the justice God will bring to this world in the end.
Best Trip – St. Louis. This category would always be won by my annual trip with my college buddies we call “Fandango”. So I’m going to throw it out as the de facto champion each year. This year I had a chance to spend some time with Kevin and Nikki Rutz, my college roommate and his wife (another college friend of mine). In addition to the Rutzes were Darrin and Amie Patrick. Darrin is Lead Pastor of Kevin and Nikki’s church and good friends (including Amie) with the Rutzes. Jen and I flew up from Houston and stayed with them at the Rutz’s lakehouse south of St. Louis. it was one of the most refreshing (can you say “no kids”), enjoyable and rejuvinating times in all of 2008. I love the Rutzes, the Patricks and The Journey (their church where I had the opportunity to preach over that extended weekend). Good food, cruising on the lake, even a campfire…it was a blast! To put the cherry on the top, Jen and I also got to stay with our good friends the Kerckhoffs while we were there. I also caught a Cards’ game at Busch. Sweet! Again, it was a blast!!! You can read the original post on my trip here.
- Honorable Mention – Seattle. I travelled to the Emerald City for the first time close to the beginning of 2008. Along with Bruce Wesley and Greg Poore (fellow staffers), I enjoyed the great food, drink and sites of the Pacific Northwest. I also had great conversations with my brothers-in-arms from CCCC. Wow, there are fewer things I love than really good conversation and Poore and Wesley are great at it! I love those guys. I also got to connect with Scott James, founder of Fair Trade Sports, and one of my close college buddies (a Fandango Matador). I was in his backyard (he lives on Bainbridge Island there in the Sound) and while we briefly connected over at Pike’s Brewpub, it was definitely worth seeing such a good friend even if it was for a short period of time. Again, Seattle was a great trip.
Okay, that’s enough for now. We’ll see if I can think of anymore “bests”, but for now, that’s the best of 2008 for me.