Brussel Sprouts Taste Fine and 49 Other Things I’ve Learned in California

At the start of my twenties I decided I would commit this decade to learning everything I could. These ten years are to be learning, in the hopes I will become a life long learner. With the move back to Illinois barreling at us and this chapter of my life closing I thought I  would share some of what I’ve learned in the past four years in fortune cookie length. Fifty insights won’t even begin to cover all I’ve learned but it’s  a start.

1. God’s sovereignty is Cosmic Ease. Picture it: He makes his enemies his footstool. God lounges on His enemies. Certainly This is not beyond His purview.

2. Taste is subjective. Like whatever you like. Of course, that doesn’t make what you like good. It just means you like it and nobody can shame you for that. It actually might suck but get on with your bad self that Big Mac won’t eat itself.

3. My taste is not necessarily good.

4. Comic Sans and Papyrus are awful fonts. Bold text is meant to emphasize something not to make something more readable; so a Title should be bolded but not a Sub-Title and never the bulk text. Bright Red against a Bright Blue is garish and hard to read. A line of text, graphically speaking, should never have just one word on it or else it’s an Orphan or Widow. We read in chunks so it is better for text on a screen to be presented in a chunk. Everything should be in service to the “audience.”  you-are-now-thinking-in-comic-sans-78331-500-424.jpg

5. People are trying, give ‘em grace.

6. No one is exclusively their political issue.

7. There is no true Scotsman.

8. Reading a novel is never a waste of time. Watching a TV show might be, but damn, if it isn’t nice to crack open a beer and turn your brain off for an hour or ten.

9. It doesn’t necessarily have to be written and shared. It should probably be written though.

10. The Devil is in the details. Execute everything with precision. But if you flub a line or miss a note take heart because chances are the only people who noticed are You and you’re too hard on yourself, your wife who’s seen you naked and still loves you, God who loves sinners like you, and the Devil who’s a pissant anyways.

11. It was not necessarily better back in the day. Nostalgia for something that only existed on television or in your foggy memory is a poor substitute for hope.

12. Click tracks are for rehearsal. Turn the metronome off when live.

13. You are what you eat. If you want to play sick guitar solos: listen to and study sick guitar solos. If you want to write good poems: read and study good poems. If you want to be a Big Mac…

14. Words have meanings we didn’t decide. Use them well, use them carefully. We cannot arbitrarily say that when X has meant X for a millennium it now means Y. We’ve not been given the authority.

15.  Don’t be too impressed with yourself, the joke’s not as funny as you think.

16. The Bible is a fascinating and weird book. Much like its Subject it won’t do what we want it to do. It’s best to just go with the flow and trust the text. There’s no need to force it to be something it’s not, like Safe-For-the-Whole-Family.

17. The medium is the message.

18. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Less is always more. Just because you can play all the notes doesn’t mean you should. One perfect note in the Courts of the Lord is better than a thousand flashy notes elsewhere.

19. Drummers are not wild animals, they don’t belong in cages. If you love them set them free.

Two things that are manufactured exclusively for churches: plastic trees and drum shields.

20. Everything a human can feel is found in the Psalms. There our humanity is validated and our broken bones get set by a loving Healer.

21. Delete every “that”, it’s unnecessary.

22. Go slow. Giving things time and space to simmer usually reduces the superfluous details and makes the tasty bits tastier. This is true in music, writing, leadership. This is not true in relationships. I could respond to phone calls, texts, tweets, Facebook messages, emails a bit quicker. So I’ve heard. But everywhere else slower is better. Why do today what could be put off to tomorrow*?

* Provided you actually do it tomorrow, of course.

23. It’s okay to be in a dark place, it’s not okay to be a jerk.

24. Nothing quite like getting in the pocket and grooving hard.

25. The three extra characters in “thanks” doesn’t save enough time to ever make “thx” appropriate when writing to a colleague nor does it justify the gradual detriment and erosion that kind of short hand has on the English language.

26. We need both the Law and the Gospel. If the Law never wounds us then how could the Gospel ever heal us? And if we don’t know where we erred how do we ever do better next time?

27. Just because you’re right doesn’t mean you’re not a jerk. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. It’s better to be kind and Something than right but Nothing.

28. Kiss Alyssa then kiss Atticus then kiss Alyssa again. Rinse and repeat. Be late to work.

29. People don’t do what they’re told. They do what they love. If you want to change someone’s behavior you’re better off not changing what they do but changing their heart. And only God can do that. So how about you do you and let God do God?

30. Fewer people are out to get you than you’d like to believe.

31. “God helps those who help themselves” is a contemporary form of Semi-Pelagianism. Pelagius was a British monk who denied the doctrine of original sin. Pelagius affirmed that humans can be righteous by the exercising of their free will. Full Pelagianism is the belief that we choose God instead of God choosing us. Semi-Pelagianism is letting “God be our co-pilot” which the Roman Catholic Church condemned in 418 AD, a millennium and a half before it was a popular bumper sticker.

32. Brussel sprouts taste fine.

33. Genre only exists to make you spend your hard earned money. Don’t buy something simply because some white guy in a suit in a cubicle has decided it’s Christian. God’s Not Dead is hardly Christian. It’s hardly film. And don’t ignore something simply because some white guy in a suit in a cubicle has decided it isn’t for you. Grey’s Anatomy is great.

34. There’s no point in our going if God doesn’t go with us. Why even get out of bed? “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” Exodus 33.15

35. Taylor Swift writes a fine song.

36. Just because you don’t think X means X doesn’t mean that X means Y. It most definitely means X.

37. Incurvatus in Se: “Scripture describes man as so curved in upon himself [Incurvatus in Se] that he uses not only physical but even spiritual goods for his own purposes and in all things seeks only himself” (Luther’s Works, vol. 25, p.345, see also pp. 291-92)

38. Trust your mom.

39. Jack Daniels is not for sipping. How’d it take me that long to figure this out? If it’s the only alcohol available and you absolutely need to have a drink (you don’t) put some Dr. Pepper in it and be about your business. Do not sip. Better yet just drink water or milk.

40. The Pantoum is a form of poetry made up of quatrains where the second and fourth lines of each stanza become the first and third line of the next. And it’s the best.

41. God knows the answer already and asks the question anyways. “But the LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’” Genesis 3.9

42. A Straw Man argument is an informal logical fallacy where someone gives the impression of refuting an opponents argument, when in fact they argument refuted was never advanced by said opponenet. First, Person One asserts X. Then Person Two argues against a superficially similar argument Y, falsely, as if an argument against Y was an argument against X. 

43. Social Media is the damp and moist environment where Straw Men, Ad Hominen, and other illogical fungi grows. Consider most posts about Millennials and President Obama.

44. A bad system is better than no system.

45. Everything can be better than it currently is.

46. Saying your sorry is not enough. Mean it. Make up for it. Set things right. Or, as my boy Daniel Tiger says… no, sings it: Saying I’m sorry is the first step, then how can I help?

47. Most people mean well.

48. Someone disagreeing with you doesn’t mean they’re wrong and you’re right.

49. An average musician with a great character is better than a great musician with an average character.

50. The enemy of faith is not doubt but certainty.

Brussel Sprouts Taste Fine and 49 Other Things I’ve Learned in California

My Favorite Music of 2015

Back in June or so I wrote up a reflection of what I thought was the best music I had been listening to in the first half of the year, My Favorite Music of 2015 So Farand since the year is coming to its end I thought I’d roundup the music I enjoyed the most for the whole year.

Honorable Mention

  • A Head Full Of Dreams, Coldplay. My sense is that lyrically, like most of Coldplay’s catalogue, it will be mostly trite with a few winsome moments. But I’m predetermined to love disco and Coldplay so I’m digging what I hear thus far.
  • Floodplains, Sara Groves. I like Sara Groves a lot and was greatly looking forward to this album. When it initially released I listened to it once or twice, it’s good. It feels grown up in some ways but her music has always seemed more mature then some of her contemporaries. But I’ve not been tempted to go back for many listens. Though I’m sure I will in time.
  • Live at Coral Ridge, Chelsea Chen. One of my heroes in the worship leading world is Zac Hicks, his blog has been hugely influential to my worship ethos. His church released this contemporary organ concert earlier this fall. It’s super cool – it doesn’t at all sound stuffy like you’d imagine a church organ concert. I really appreciate his church’s sincere effort to bridge tradition and contextualization. This album of organ music did not feel out of place with anything else I enjoyed this year.
  • Coming Home, Leon Bridges. Earlier this year my little brother showed me a track from this album and I thought it was nice, if not a little bit derivative. After Bridges’ performance on SNL this past weekend I decided to give the album another try and I’m enjoying it immensely. I’ve had it on repeat for the past three days or so. It’s good enough to be on anybody’s year end, Best Of list…
  • All We Need, Raury. Sonically, I adore this album. The folk, hip-hop, jazz fusion is really something else and alone worth the price of admission. That being said, I find it to be lyrically irritating. Thank you, Earnest-19-Year-Old, I didn’t realize that love will fix the world. I’m glad you figured that out for us with your totally original philosophy.
  • So There, Ben Folds. This is classic Ben Folds, which I really enjoy – though less than when I was in high school/college. I chuckled like a nerdy 8th grade band geek at some of the prophane Music Theory double entendres. The three-movement concerto at the end is frustrating because it’s the best thing on the album but it’s so disjointed from everything else. I wish Folds had released it seperately but I get that he’s trying to bring symphonic music into the pop realm in a serious way so I’m torn.
  • 1989, Ryan Adams. Seriously, he made T-Swift even more sad. I wouldn’t say he improved what she wrote but Adams definitley highlighted her strengths in a unique way.
  • Carry The Fire, Dustin Kensrue. Maybe I had been expecting a worship album from his second solo outing so wasn’t prepared for what he released. But, and I mean this kindly, Kensrue released an incredible Bruce Springsteen album.

My Favorite Albums in the Second Half* of 2015

The Best “Pop Worship” Album of 2015 – Bright StarAaron Strumpel.a3693472148_10

I’ve been sort of listening to Aaron Strumpel for a few years now. His lyrics are great and his voice is unique but up until Bright Star I’ve had a hard time latching on to what he’s doing. I say “Pop Worship” lightly because it’s too broad of a definition. There’s been strong outings this year from Bethel, Hillsong, Tomlin, and other great big name bands with songs I’ve actually used in worship but there’s something musically and lyrically special about this one. It’s not as clean and accessable as those other albums but it’s much richer. This sounds how the Psalms feel. In fact, much of it is inspired by the Psalms.

The Best “Grown Ups Have Feelings Too” Album of 2015 – The Burning Edge of DawnAndrew Peterson7ab5224593af4756df517434_610x610

To understate it, towards the end of the summer and start of autumn I was particularly blue. I rode that wave through October when Andrew Peterson released this album. I wouldn’t say it healed me but the Holy Spirit used it in a major way (along with Psalm 42) to minister to me. Peterson’s musical, artistic, religious, and work ethos are aligned with my own as far as I can tell. This collection of songs, in a very grown up way, addresses life’s creaks and aches in a way that doesn’t reduce them to sensationalistic and ultimately shallow dramas. The language is rooted and earthy.

The Best “Seriously, Can You Guess How My Theology Informs My Politics?” Album of the Year – BrotherThe Brilliancebrother.jpg

The Brilliance are easily some of the best musicians in Christian music. These tunes are liturgical, radical, will challenge how you approach prayer, and just all around incredible. There’s some repeats from their earlier album which is why it took me so long to listen to it fully. But when I did I found some lyrics (I was already sold that the music was exceptional) that were in the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount and rooted in the liturgical language of the church. If we sang the title track in church I wonder what would happen. Anybody want to listen and weigh in?

The Best “My Hometown Library Wrote and Recorded an Album” Album of 2015 – Sermon On The RocksJosh Rittersermon.jpg

Josh Ritter is one of the best songwriters I’ve ever heard. Full stop. He’s exceptionally literate and that’s reflected in the lyrics. This album from beginning to end is laced with Biblical allusions, wit, good storytelling and more. Seriously though, it sounds like growing up in a well-read small town. Which, you know, that’s kind of my thing. These are the kind of songs I wish I was writing.

The Best “Music With a Message” Album of 2015 – Socially Just, NomiSa0527011412_16.jpg

Where I think Raury failed above in being too preachy, I think NomiS succeeds. This is album is not just a call to action but it’s an actual call to something. The world is a broken place, marred by the curse of sin. The last thing anybody needs is cheap, overwrought hippy platitudes and on the other end of the spectrum we don’t need a 10 Step Plan to Being Better either. The music is as good as the message. The tune Love God, Love People is dope as hell. Go support my friend NomiS now!

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for…

My Absolute Favorite Albums of 2015 (Ranked)
10. Bright Star, Aaron Strumpel
9. Brother, The Brilliance
8. Home, Josh Garrels
7. The Burning Edge of Dawn, Andrew Peterson
6. Carrie & Lowell, Sufjan Stevens
5. I Love You, Honeybear, Father John Misty
4. Sermon On The Rocks, Josh Ritter
3. Socially Just, NomiS
2. Psalms, Sandra McCraken
1. The Phosphorescent Blues, Punch Brothers

Aside from Sandra McCraken (there’s an All Sons & Daughter’s cover) all the artists I mentioned in this list and my mid-year list are included in this playlist:

*Not necessarily released in the second half, but all the same…

My Favorite Music of 2015

Thirty Things I’m Thankful For in 2015

Family and friends

1) Alyssa. I used to romanticize what wedded bliss would look like. In my mind there was vaseline on the lens, soft lighting, and everything had the best Instagram filters. But it’s not really all that rosy. And though Alyssa does in fact look fantastic always, I do not. (Fact: She wakes up beautiful.) Alyssa sees me in my mess and loves me all the same. Hopefully you all think I’m smart and good-looking and talented and all that because I’m trying to impress you but Alyssa hears my bathroom noises, reads my crappy first drafts, listens to every wrong note I play, and loves me all the same. And she loves me well. It’s gospel love. She loves me when I least deserve it. She is patient and kind, generous, gracious, intelligent, quick-witted, creative, and a gifted care-taker. Everyday I look forward more and more to our life together. I see Christ in Alyssa everyday in how she loves our family. Her prayers sustain me, her love keeps me afloat when I think I’m sinking. She gives me hope that the world is gonna be okay because she is in it. And though everybody knows this it bears repeating: Atticus is beyond blessed to have her as his mother. Trust me, I know a thing or two about great moms.

Photo Credit: Samantha Jeet
Photo Credit: Samantha Jeet

2) My Mom. Fact: My mom is better than everybody else’s, save Atticus Mac’s mom. And since Alyssa isn’t my mom I can safely get my mom “The World’s Best Mom” mug with much sincerity. There are few people I enjoy talking to as much as I enjoy talking to my mom. And we’ve been best buds, chatting since I was cooing baby nonsense. My mom is incredible, she raised my sister and I as a single mom while putting herself through nursing school and holding down side jobs. Being a parent is hard when there’s two of you so my mom’s fortitude blows me away, I never saw any cracks in her armor. And it didn’t stop there, when I was in high school (after she remarried and had a third kid) she wanted to try something else so, you know, she went to law school. And while in law school she made dinner for us ungrateful teenagers every night, came to all our extracurricular functions, and made time to talk with us and build relationships with our friends. Oh! And she graduated at the top of her class.


3) Atticus Mac. Most mornings I wake up well before I want to with Atticus Mac. I hear him crying from our bedroom but when I go and get him from his crib he looks at me, stops crying, smiles big and says, “Dada!” He’s like me in a lot of ways, which is both wonderful and terrifying, including the fact that he likes to wake up slowly. We spend the first hour or so most mornings snuggling on the couch. Now I realize that as a pastor I’m supposed to spend my first few hours Divining the Mysteries of Eternity or Translating the New Testament or Whatever, but if over the last year and half I’ve learned anything about God in this first hour of my day it’s this: Like I love Atticus, my heavenly father loves me not because of anything I’ve done or am capable of doing but simply because I exist and am His. Someday I’ll teach Atticus about starting your day right with God or something but for now I’m content in snuggling.

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4) My Siblings. Over the past few months my sister and brother, Cailtyn and Josh, and myself have had an ongoing group text message. I’d share a sample conversation with you but it’s so funny you’d not get any work done in the next week. I’m grateful that even though we all live far away from each other we’re an almost daily part of each other’s lives. Side note: Caitlyn and I dubbed Josh “The Chosen One” when he was like seven or something and he’s always assumed that was an accurate descriptor. 182632_1805031735952_2616047_n

5) My Dad and Step-Mom. My dad has had a tough year but the thing about my dad is that he perseveres. I don’t always give him the credit he’s due but he’s overcome a lot in his life and I’ve not ever doubted for a second that he loves me and my sister (and our step-siblings) with ever fibre of his being. Pluse he and my step-mom, Shellie, have one of the coolest relationships. They seem to love each other more each time I see them together. I’m grateful that Christ has done incredible things in both of their lives. 1662416_10151891295150671_400247644_n

6) My Step-Dad. One of my favorite things about God is that His love is an intentional choice and He goes to great lengths to prove it. That’s also one of my favorite things about Steve. He is one of the kindest people there is and when I was little kid he made the choice to love me and be dad while never trying to replace my dad. Being a step-parent is tough, maybe impossible, work and Steve does it successfully with such grace.

Photo Credit: Samantha Jeet
Photo Credit: Samantha Jeet

7) My Grandmas. Two of the best moments of the last year involved my mom’s mom, Grandma Pearl and my dad’s mom, Grandma Pat! We named Atticus after my Grandma Pearl’s late husband, Grandpa Mac, and the first time Atticus met her she held him and he was so comfortable he fell asleep cuddling her immediately. And this past May when we were home for my brother’s graduation and Atticus Mac’s first birthday celebration my Grandma Pat, who I haven’t seen in way too many years, surprised me. I almost knocked her over with a hug. Growing up each summer Caitlyn and I would go up and spend a week with her. And despite all the years it’s been she’s never once missed a birthday, holiday, or special occassion.

Grandma Pearl.
Grandma Pearl.
Grandma Pat and Grandpa Larry.
Grandma Pat and Grandpa Larry.

8) My In-Laws. Want to hear a funny joke? A retired Navy Seal turned firefighter and a poetry writing pianist walk into a bar… Just kidding, David doesn’t drink. My in-laws and us younger Weltys have a sort of Oscar and Felix thing going on but I gotta hand it to them, over the past three years or so they’ve proved to be incredibly patient with us. They’ve helped to guide us in some sticky situations and are more than willing to be sounding boards for us. I’ve never felt like I’ve been without family in California because they’ve welcomed me like their own. And they buy us dinner on Friday nights. IMG_0392

9) My Extended FamilyMost of my cousins are having kids right now. Grandma Pearl has about the same amount of greatgrandchildren as she does grandchildren. Us cousins were raised together and it’s really neat to be raising kids at the same time. Around the time their kids were being born I got to have similar conversations with my cousins Anthony and Curtis about how awesome it is being a father. I’m so glad we get to share this together.

10) Old Friends. I’ve made plenty of new friends over the past three-and-a-half, four years in California but over the past year I’ve been able to reconnect with a couple of friends from different stages in my life. Last autumn I got to reconnect with Dave Schuman, who I used to lead worship with in college, and we’ve been able to pray with each a couple of times over the past year as he’s made a big move (to the wrong Westminster, but I digress…) Another close friend, who I got to lead worship with in high school, Dan Alcantara and I have been regularly chatting these past few months as we’re in similar life situations and he’s been a great comfort to lean on. And in the past two months I’ve reconnected with my oldest friend (we were born together, no joke, long story I’ll tell it later), Ian Eller, and we’ve had the most incredible ongoing conversation about art and life. At a time when friends have seemed few and far between reconnecting with these three guys has been a huge encouragement.

THE written word

11) The Chronicles of Narnia. If you want a sneak peak at my soul it’s hidden in Aslan’s How.IMG

12) Psalm 126. This is my favorite Psalm, hands down. Some recent thoughts on it: “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Tommy Welty

13) The CuratorI’ve enjoyed the writing at The Curator for a few years now. When I decided I wanted to try and get some poems published they were the place I hoped would publish my first poem. And they did! If A Tree Falls in the Forest and I’m the Only One There

14) The Brothers Karamazov, Book V: Pro and Contra, Chapter 4: Rebellion. “No, I can’t admit it. Brother,” said Alyosha suddenly, with flashing eyes, “you said just now, is there a being in the whole world who would have the right to forgive and could forgive? But there is a Being and He can forgive everything, all and for all, because He gave His innocent blood for all and everything. You have forgotten Him, and on Him is built the edifice, and it is to Him they cry aloud, ‘Thou are just, O Lord, for Thy ways are revealed!'”

15) MockingbirdThis website is a great place to reflect on pop-culture in a serious and theological way. I’m regularly encouraged by their writing, particular the Editor-in-Chief David Zahl.

16) Anton Checkhov, short story, Rothschild’s Fiddle. You know that shopworn phrase, “It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry…”? Well, this’ll make you laugh and cry. Also it’s opening line is shockingly dark and funny: “The town was a little one, worse than a village, and it was inhabited by scarcely any but old people who died with an infrequency that was really annoying.” The protagonist is a miserly coffin-maker. 

17) Gerard Manly Hopkins, “God’s Grandeur“. “The world is charged with the grandeur of God”

18) Aaron Belz, “A Little Lightning“. You think there’s more to this. Look:/ When I look I see skeletons walking around.

19) Martin Luther, A Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the GalatiansA pint of cold beer after running a marathon through the Saraha on the hottest day in recorded history.

20) Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth. “‘My goodness,’ thought Milo, ‘everybody is so terribly sensitive about the things they know best.'”phantom_tollbooth_map


Here’s a playlist that includes tunes from each of the following:

21) Josh Ritter, Sermon on the Rocks. Josh Ritter has long been a favorite songwriter of mine. His lyrics include all of my favorite things – Biblical allusions, absurdities, mythic narratives… Each album of his is unique from the others. This one sounds like my hometown in autumn.

22) Bob Dylan, “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” and “With God On Our Side”. These two songs ministered to me in different ways. “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” is an invitation to rest, which I need after listening to “With God On Our Side.” I’m trying to lose friends at this point, but both these tunes are tunes I wish I had written and if I ever end up gigging I think “With God On Our Side” will be a staple.

23) Kendrick Lamarr, good kid, m.A.A.d city. Go ahead and read The Subtle Racism of a Buffered Self to know why I’m thankful for this album.

24) Les Misérables. I listened to this on repeat all through August for some reason. OH YEAH! Because Les Misérables is what my soul sounds like when it’s singing in Aslan’s How.

25) Punch Brothers, Phosphorescent Blues. In a year of great albums this is the only one that never got old listening to. I listen to it probalby once a week.

26) The Brilliance, “Brother”. The Church needs to remember this:

27) Citizens & Saints, Join The Triumph. I love singing these songs on Sunday mornings. This is a solid album from start to close.

28) Ryan Adams (by way of Taylor Swift), 1989. This is the only Ryan Adams album I like. Because T. Swift wrote it.

29) Andrew Peterson, The Burning Edge of Dawn. I cried in Starbucks the first time I listened all the way through this album.

30) The Flaming Lips, “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” and “Mr. Ambulance Driver”. The Flaming Lips made Miley Cyrus cool. So, that’s how you can know they’re talented. I’m sure they didn’t intend this but “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” demonstrates Total Depravity fantastically, and “Mr. Ambulance Driver” is about what results of Total Depravity. Really, great tunes.

This list was impossible to curate. I want to include more people, more books and articles, more songs and albums. I want to include some moments from the year, some disciplines, other media that brought me much joy. So… Maybe I’ll try again.

Thirty Things I’m Thankful For in 2015

My Favorite Music of 2015 So Far

We’re on a downward slope towards Christmas 2015 now, half the year is behind us and there’s been a lot of great new music so far. I thought I’d take a couple of minutes and jot down my thoughts.

Top 5 Tunes So Far in 2015:

The Best “I Shouldn’t Love This, But I Do. Tommy, You’re Better Than This” Song of (maybe) 2015 (?) – “Shake it off” by Taylor Swift (Look I’m a hipster and I don’t follow T-Swift’s career so maybe this song came out in 2014, I don’t know, but I like it in 2015.) Also, the below is a solid cover.

The Best “Even Though You’re Almost 30 it’s Okay that Death Cab For Cutie Still Makes You Feel Things” Song of 2015 – “Black Sun” by Death Cab for Cutie

Check out my review of the whole album: Kintsugi Review

The Best “I Didn’t Write this for My Wife but Wish I Had, and if I Had it’d be a Waltz Too” Song of 2015 – “Heaven’s Knife” by Josh Garrels

I love a good waltz. There’s that. I’ve written at least two for Alyssa. The first time we listened to this we were driving to work. Alyssa was in the back seat dealing with our son and when Garrels sang “Oh my love she’s beautiful… She’s all that I could need, she’s beautiful, she’s a part of me, she’s my wife…” I’m not going to say I cried, but I cried. Don’t tell Alyssa. Check out some more thoughts I have on Garrels’ music: “Heaven’s Knife (Reflections on the Music of Josh Garrels)


(Photo Credit: Samantha Jeet)

The Best “Radiohead Cover” of 2015 – “Reckoner” by Robert Glasper Trio

There’s been a trend to turn alternative rock tunes into standards in jazz that I really love as a casual listener of jazz. The best example would be The Bad Plus, although they’re moving away from it. Robert Glasper, when he does it, kills it. His cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is the best version – period – of that tune. He brings it again with this Radiohead cover.

The Best “I Only Really Like This Song and Haven’t Spent Much Time With the Rest of the Album Because It’s not 2004 Anymore” Song of 2015 – “The Best Room” by Modest Mouse

I was That Guy in college sitting at a coffeeshop with an empty Moleskin journal telling casual acquaintaces I was writing a novel and hoping they’d set me up with their friends. Isn’t it great that I’ve grown up? There’s a moment when Isacc Brock sings “And I was like what?!” That was cathartic and let me laugh at 19 year-old-me. The rest of the album is classic Modest Mouse, so I’d rather just listen to their old stuff.

The Top 5 Albums So Far in 2015 

The Best “Stop Crying in Public, Your Mom is Alive and Healthy” Album of 2015 – “Carrie & Lowell” by Sufjan Stevens

Like a psalm Sufjan digs into his grief and despair but by the end we’re lifted out of the pit. I need a thousand words or more to write the first thought of many about this album. It is not easy listening but it is worthwhile. Bring some wine and make sure it’s raining though.

The Best “Is this About iPhones? I Think this is About iPhones. Yeah, this is Totally About iPhones” Album of 2015 – “The Phosphorescent Blues” by The Punch Brothers

If you like “The Beach Boys” or “JS Bach” or “Bill Monroe” than this album is for you.

Here’s Chris Thile’s thoughts on some of the album’s themes:

I believe personally that we are trying. That we try so hard to do well. I think that that’s beautiful and that will result in us living meaningful lives, that we’ve given everything we have. We become dangerous when we give up. We just have to keep trying. If we give it everything we have, we’ll become the master of these little gadgets. Right now I think they are the master of us.

This won’t be the thing that brings us down. We’ll figure this out. Before this, it was the personal computer, before that the television, before that the radio, the light bulb on back to the wheel. We will find a way to incorporate this into meaningful lives.

Chris Thile’s Phosphorescent Blues – The Bluegrass Staion


The Best “I Already Mentioned this Album Earlier and Wrote a Blog” Album of 2015 – “Home” by Josh Garrels

Check out some more thoughts I have on Garrels’ music: “Heaven’s Knife (Reflections on the Music of Josh Garrels)

The Best “Am I Supposed to Laugh, Cry, or  Blush” Album of 2015 (NSFW!) – “I Love You, Honeybear” by Father John Misty (Really, NSFW!)

I listened to the lead track of this album “Bored in the U.S.A.” when it was released in 2014 before the album. It was so bleak, cynical, dark, beautiful, and honest but too much for me. So when the album came out it wasn’t on my radar, but a friend played a few other tracks for me and I was hooked. Father John Misty is rude and hillarious, but also sincere and honest.

The Best “This is What We Should Be Singing in Church” Album of 2015 – “Psalms” by Sandra McCracken

I’ll let Sandra McCracken tell us about the album:

Having an artistic personality type, I tend to have big feelings. Because I work within a creative vocation, I get to explore them fairly regularly in my writing and performing. But even with that vocational permission, I live most of my days on the surface of things. Most of us don’t have much time in the margins to reflect on what we are feeling or how we are acting out of those feelings and values. Often it takes painful life-disruption before we stop and reflect on what’s beneath the surface of the life we have built. We live with patterns of behavior and relate to others without being awake to our real fears or woundedness. In the past two years or so, I have practiced reading the Daily Office (a Christian tradition of reading through the Bible in three-year intervals), which includes a morning and evening psalm each day. I have been amazed at how the readings have faithfully brought perfectly timed perspective and sparked confession, awareness, wisdom, and healing.

I would often sit during these times of meditation with a journal, with my guitar, or at the piano and find that the Psalms gave particular voice to my emotion, my story, and my struggle. The Psalms gave me words when I didn’t have my own words. They prompted me to sing a new song when I couldn’t find my voice. They directed my heart toward God’s faithful, saving love. They have drawn me deeper into a life of gratitude, often by being willing to go deeper into honest sorrow. Through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit has guided my steps with truth and clarity. The Psalms teach me that I can be safe in his good providence even when everything around and within me feels like chaos. When we hear these ancient words, we are reminded that we are not alone. We are not the first to feel what we feel. There is perspective and humility and honor in joining together with those who have gone before us. And we are also reminded that we will not be defined by our present circumstances, but by the mercy of God who has committed himself to the full restoration of all things.

 Sandra McCracken on Life, Loss, and Longing in the Psalms – The Gospel Coalition

My Favorite Music of 2015 So Far