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December 2003

December 31, 2003

2003 was a banner year for Christian music. I had a difficult time sorting through the many excellent albums to choose my favorites. After a lot of consideration, four rose to the top. Why only four? Because everyone else is doing top-five lists and I choose to be different!

A quick note about qualifications. It is difficult to determine what constitutes Christian music, so for my purposes the only qualifications for this list are albums that were released in 2003 and were purchased at a Christian bookstore.

  1. Derek Webb - She Must And Shall Go Free. Derek Webb broke from Caedmon’s Call in 2003 and released an incredible debut album. Many albums seem to be written, recorded and thrown together. Webb’s album is crafted. Each song builds on the last and blends seamlessly into the next. He builds around the theme of the church and God’s love for and relationship with His people. Brutally honest, wonderfully crafted, Christian music has rarely sounded this good. I wrote an in-depth album review of this one.
  2. Switchfoot - The Beautiful Letdown. Switchfoot managed to create an album that is powerful, fun and very well-written. Musically the band takes a step forward, further creating their very own niche in a genre full of imitators. There are some good, loud rock songs for the rock crowd and some piano-driven ballads for those looking for pop.
  3. Dakona - Perfect Change. Outstanding song-writing, great choruses and lots of guitar make this album special. Most of all, this album is just plain fun! Though it contains only very subtle Christian content, this album qualifies for my “best of” because it was purchased at a Christian bookstore.
  4. Ten Shekel Shirt - Risk. Ten Shekel Shirt’s sophomore album finds the band maturing in their songwriting and musical ability. Though there are not any songs on this album that will find their way into the regular rotation in worship services (like “Ocean” and “Meet With Me” from their first album) the songs maintain a strong Christian theme.

Honorable Mentions

  • Petra - Jekyll & Hyde. This album almost made my top 5 list, but realized that if it were not a Petra album it likely would not make that list. It is a great album that welcomes back Bob Hartman, the founder of the band.
  • David Crowder Band - Illuminate. A solid album, but it uses far too many computerized sounds. It is also over-produced compared to the raw, live sounds of Crowder we are used to accustomed on the Passion CDs.

Disappointments

  • Tait - Lose This Life. After a strong debut Tait takes a step back with this album. The edginess of the first album has been replaced by a more produced, commercial feel.
  • Skillet - Collide. I was promised an album that harkened back to their debut album. Instead we got really loud guitars, really loud vocals, really loud synthesizer combining to make a really average album.
  • Stuart Townend - Lord of Every Heart. I have several versions of the excellent song In Christ Alone. The one Townend chose to release on this album is atrocious. I simply do not understand how he could release such a poor version of such a powerful song.

Looking Forward

2004 looks to be another strong year for Christian music. We can look forward to the long-awaited and oft-rumored Smalltown Poets album, as well as new albums by Pillar, Third Day and Delerious.

December 31, 2003

After spending a wonderful week in Atlanta with with my family, we have returned to the much colder North. I elected not to announce that we would be travelling and would be away from the house for a week. For some reason it just seemed like a bad idea!

We spent the week relaxing, reading, spending time with my family and meeting two new boyfriends (one for each of my unattached sisters). I’m proud to say that one of them is going to be a Web designer - what a great way to warm up to a girlfriend’s brother!

We will be spending the evening with our Home Church friends tonight. By tomorrow I hope to return to regular updates of this site (rather than just clearing out my backlog of book reviews!) with a review of the best albums of 2003 as well as a list I compiled of “Things I Hate About America (And A Few Things I Love).”

On a completely unrelated note, Google has decided I merit a Page Rank of 5 this month, moving me up from the 4 I had before. I am targetting a 7 which will be a real challenge. Part of the problem in the Blog world is that so many people use Blogrolling for outgoing links and Google does not appear to be able to read the links from Blogrolls, so many of the people who link to me are useless as far as Google’s Page Rank system is concerned.

And on a further unrelated note, yesterday was the busiest day in the history of Challies Dot Com, with more visitors coming through than on any other day in the past two years.

December 30, 2003

This is a series examining the differences between Calvinist and Arminian theology. Though I completed it several weeks ago, I did not provide a “table of contents” for the five articles.

December 30, 2003

All Things Possible is the autobiography of football star Kurt Warner. Though in the media his story is often related as a meteoric rise to stardom, we learn that it was only through time, perseverance and God’s grace that Warner ever got a chance to live out his dream.

I was drawn to Kurt Warner’s story for several reasons. First, I am a fan of the St Louis Rams, the team with which Warner has had his success. Second, I love stories about underdogs, and Warner’s story is just that. Third, I love to read about other Christians and the experiences that shaped them.

December 29, 2003

I am travelling today and do not have time to make a “proper” post, so instead I will post this news article I received from Middle East Reformed Fellowship. I have no verification if this is true, but don’t see any reason to doubt it at this point.

The latest update we have from Iran indicates that 28 brethren were gathered for an underground Christmas service in house near the center of the earthquake devastated town. Sadly, all houses in the area totally collapsed. All 28 believers, who were Muslim converts died under the rubble of the house. Nineteen of them have been identified. Muslim family member arranged for Islamic burial services for them. The rest have not been identified and have apparently been included in a mass burial service (also according to Islamic rituals).

One of the elders of that church (and his wife) was holding another underground meeting in a village about 60 miles away. Their lives have been preserved but they extremely shaken by the atmosphere of death which surrounds them.

The earthquake area has in recent years seen growing numbers of conversions. There has not been a recognized church of any kind in the area for more than 600 years. It is now estimated that more than 31,000 people were killed as a result of the earthquake. It is not yet clear whether any other believers were among them. The public communication network as well as electrical and water systems in the area have been destroyed. The government, however, has restored some of the mobile/cellular phone towers. We hope that this will speed up the updates we receive. (Iranian believers avoid making contact with each other over land-based phone lines which are normally monitored by the religious police. They use temporary, unidentifiable mobile/cellular phone cards.)

As we await further details about other brethren in the area, please join in praying for them, for the loved ones of those who died and for testimony of the proclamation of the Gospel and building of the church in the area.

December 28, 2003

Hostage tells the story of the kidnapping of three American missionaries from a tiny village in the Panamanian jungle. The book is written by Nancy Mankins, wife of Dave Mankins, who along with Mark Rich and Rick Tenenoff was kidnapped by Colombian rebels.

The book continually alternates between the day of the kidnapping and the years of preparation that led the Mankins family to become missionaries to the Kuna tribe. We learn about their call to mission work, the decision to leave their life in America and move to the jungles of South America, and the life they built there. We learn about the trials and challenges they faced in trying to adapt to a culture vastly different from their own. The story culminates, of course, in the events of January 31, 1993 when rebels burst into the tiny village and kidnapped the three missionaries.

December 27, 2003

sacred-romance.gifThe Sacred Romance, by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge, claims that it will �invite us to see what God is doing behind the scenes of our lives to woo us to Himself. A glimpse of His wild beauty arouses our desire and puts us on a journey to capture or be captured by love. It calls us to recognize our heart�s deepest longing and invites us on a journey toward fulfillment.� If that is not clear, it is a book about Christian living and becoming more like Christ.

December 26, 2003
I am going to try to introduce another Christian Weblog once a week. This week’s featured blog is He Lives. This site describes itself as the “Reformed viewpoint of a nuclear physicist.” The author, David Heddle, has nearly completed a vast and thorough look at the various Christian viewpoints on the end times. He appears to be heading towards a belief in “partial preterism.” I highly recommend this series, though you will have to go searching through his archives to find where it really begins. He updates the site on a near-daily basis, so this is a great site to add to your daily list of places to visit.