Saturday, July 25, 2015

On The Desire Of Knowledge: An Examination

I recently have had the question posed to me in regards to why I value knowledge and the pursuit of acquiring such knowledge so highly. Initially the question took me back a little, as I have always thought everyone has that thirst for knowing more about things they know little about. Apparently, this is not the case. 

I began henceforth to put some thought into answering this question. Why do I value education and learning so highly? As far as I can remember I have always desired to learn; from the time before I could read and taught myself to recognize patterns of writing so I could distinguish one side of a record from the other. 

As I began to analyze why, I began to realize that I desire knowledge because in a accumulating ideas, concepts, and statistics about a wide variety of topics allows me to 1) understand how people's minds work and function differently than my own and 2) connect with and have conversations with those people. 

The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10 speaks of desiring to be "all things to all people" and in collecting data about a variety of topics, areas of interest and historical records, I can speak to the interests of many different people. I can conduct somewhat intelligent conversations with people from many different background stories. As a leader in my Church, this is quite important in building relationships with people I encounter on a first time basis on regular occasions. 

While there will certainly be some interests that I have more of an abundance of thirst to develop and expand on more than others, I still try to take some interest in as many topics as I can. Often though, the more I learn about one topic or another, the more desire I have to expand my knowledge of that topic. It all basically seems to boil down to one simple truth I have learned about myself, I love to learn; I don't even have a legitimate other reason sometimes. I feel enriched when a new idea, original thought, or concept traverses my radar! 

So friends, my wish for you is that you keep on learning! Pursue knowledge to connect better with people and develop deeper relationships. Pursue knowledge to understand God's creation better! Dream big about what else there is to learn, and keep an open heart and mind to how God may use your mind to reveal new truth to you, and others around you! 

Friday, June 19, 2015

The 1995 Cleveland Indians! Wow has it really been 20 years?: a reflection

This weekend, the Indians are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 1995 Cleveland Indian's team. That team was among the greatest in the history of baseball; certainly among the greatest baseball teams to not win a World Series! 

Every night it seemed, they would find a way to win, especially when they were at home in the still new Jacobs Field! They won over a dozen games in walk off fashion, often setting off car horn celebrations echoing into the summer night air in downtown Cleveland! They had a lineup that boasted eight .300 hitters! They had a starting rotation made up of veterans pitching their butts off for one last shot at glory! The bullpen was almost equally untouchable! They won 100 games in a strike shortened 144 game season! 

Alas I didn't watch much of those games during that glorious summer, but my grandfather began telling me about them. How the Indians were truly one of the most exciting teams he had ever watched, and he could remember the 1948 championship team. That summer, we would watch an inning or two of the games on TV, whenever I was at my grandparents house, and he began teaching me the rules of baseball, and the beauty that is the game! 

By October of that year, as the post season began, I had become a fan! I remember the first playoff game, I remember watching the first innings of it on TV at my grandparents. The excitement around Cleveland was everywhere! 

I have never lost my love for baseball, even now as the Indians have come close to, but never quite been as magic as that electric summer of '95. Echoes of that pulse still turn up once in while. Certainly it was present in the Tribe's unlikely return to the World Series in 1997, when they beat out both the Yankees and baseball's best team that year, the Orioles, to get there. Again in 2007 the late game heroics and playoff run brought to mind memories of 1995. 

Most recently in 2013, Jason Giambi seemed to channel 1995 Indians magic when he belted a pinch hit two out two run game winning home run to keep the Tribe's late season playoff push alive! Not only Giambi seemed to conjure up such memories, but the fans seemed to as well at Jacob's Field that night, as they roared loudly, and didn't leave for a good ten minutes after Giambi has completed his victory lap around the bases! 

I was there in person that night, and as I walked out of the stadium, serenaded by many a car horn, I felt that I finally was being given a small taste of what was nearly a nightly reality during the 1995 season: I was walking in a city full of boundless enthusiasm over a baseball team providing joy to fans in attendance and fans watching on their televisions and listening on their radios! 

The 1995 Cleveland Indians started what is now known as the "glory days" of Indians baseball that lasted through 1997. While we will never have that exact same team again, we certainly still have a team, and one that is once again building into a force to contend with on a daily basis. 

20 years has now passed, wow! I am looking forward to attending the celebration this weekend, thinking about my grandfather, now passed on, who taught me to love the game with that season as a backdrop! I was spoiled for sure, but then everyone who was a child back then was, believing no deficit was too large, and no lead was too small. It was special, and most certainly worth celebrating! 

May we one day win that elusive World Series! 

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Free Writing as the Solution To Writer's Block: An Exersise

Writer’s block. We all have had it at one point or another. In fact, I have it right now, and thought it might be fun if I kind of walk you through my manner in which I step over the blockage that causes words to get stuck in my mind, and press forward into the land of thoughts being translated through my fingers and onto my word processing program’s white page.

It all starts with me going back to a sure fire way to get my mind lubricated to free the stuck words from their cerebral prison. This method was first brought to my attention by my high school online writing teacher (I was homeschooled) who had us do exercises where our Mom’s would set a timer for a pre-decided upon set of minutes and hand us a blank page of notebook paper, with simply one rule: the moment that timer began to tick away we had to put our pencil to the paper and write. Write about anything. Write about not having anything to write about. Write about the first thing that came to mind, even if was the Indians’ awesome win the previous evening or the family cat’s latest attempt to escape to the outdoors. There were no wrong ways to complete this activity, as long as you wrote something, until that timer went off, and then you were allowed to stop.

See so often we become concerned with trying to sound smart, or witty or creative that we forget the importance of simply putting our words on paper and communicating what we would say if we were talking to someone about whatever it is that we are writing about. A succinct set of words can be equally valuable as a flowery set of descriptive jargon can be, to a reader. Direct and to the point writing has extreme value for instance to the person who is reading an instruction manual who has very little knowledge of carpentry but has set himself to the task of assembling a wooden bookcase he bought from Wal-Mart.

Ultimately when dealt the frustrating sight of a blank, empty page, and words caught in the transition of mind to finger to page, I recommend the advice I gave a friend of mine who recently told me she was struggling to write down exactly what she wanted to say because she had so much to say. I told her that the best thing for her to do is to sit down and write until all of those thoughts had made it out of her head and onto the page. Once she had done that, all she wanted to say was on the page or pages in front of her, she just now needed to read over those thoughts, cut out the ones that didn’t express what she was trying to say, and leave only the solid gems of what she was trying to communicate.

Starting is always step one, and step one sometimes really is the hardest one to take! Opening up the mysterious and awesome portal of thoughts transitioning into written words is truly one of the great miracles of how God designed our brains to function through communication. Words are awesome! Ideas rock! Communicating with words about those ideas is where the breakdown often happens. The key is to not become so overwhelmed by the blockage that you cease to write at all, the key is to write whatever comes to mind first, and follow the rabbit trail from there! I do this all the time. I just did it now. I had no idea what I was going to write when I sat down, so I wrote about writers block!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Technolgy Advancement Aversion: Quirk? Or Is There More To The Story?.... (A Self-Examination)

Change; deep down, none of us like it. Moreover, we all deal with, and process it in numerous ways. Often in dealing with it, we do bizarre and strange things.

Take me for instance. I realized that for nearly two years now I have been reeling and rebelling against new technology, rationalizing that because it is different than what was around back when I was in high school, I can’t possibly understand how to use it, or even more emphatically feel safe and happy about trying to learn how to use it. I recently remembered that I wasn’t always this way. In fact in the years since I had finished college I had become much more open to new concepts, ideas, and ways to use our ever evolving technology. However, two years ago I moved out of my parent’s house, taking on a new challenge of total independence for the first time in my life. Because that was very subtly too overwhelming to take it on all at once, I retreated into the safety net of not being open to new things once again, because I can’t be certain new things are safe and profitable for me to engage my time, talent and treasure.

Upon having God reveal this to me this past week, I have begun to try to go back to that four year period of being open to new things, reminding myself that in those four years, I grew a lot in my relationship not only with Jesus, but with others in my community around me. You see, like I said to one of my good friends as I was beginning to process this, I am 28, not 56. That means that I am at a ripe age for being able to learn how to use new apps, online streaming, an iPhone game, and any other photo editing or computer program that I may desire to explore. These things are good, and not to viewed as my enemy.

However, I should still try and be careful how much time I devote to using them. Due to our culture’s obsession with constantly being connected on social media, and constantly entertained via online streaming sites such as Netflix, Hulu and YouTube, I need to moderate how much of each of these I let myself imbibe. Moderation in a technology driven society is of the utmost importance for our spiritual souls and physical bodies. Throwing that aside now would be a very dangerous attitude to allow myself to adopt. However, if I cautiously begin to open myself up to new things again, I think it could be very good for me. I will still be a weirdo, but a little less of one. I also will likely come across less judgmental of others who use new technology in their respective lives. God allows technological advancements to happen all the time, and they are never bad or sinful in and of themselves, but they can become sinful if we turn them into idols and allow too much of time to be consumed by binge watching TV shows, or repeated marathon games of Trivia Crack.

So first steps, well, watching a movie on Netflix, listening to the new Mumford & Sons album with an objective view, instead of being negatively biased immediately since they changed their sound, and downloading new apps such as Seat Geek and Stub Hub have been my slow but steady advancements so far. Keeping in mind God did create all things good before sin entered the picture (Genesis 2-3) and asking my close friends to hold me accountable so I don’t overindulge myself are two more components of this journey that has my summer off to an exciting start! Excited to see how God continues to shape and change me in the weeks, months and years to come!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Sitcoms: More Than Just Mindless Entertainment. -Opinions formed from close attention to themes

I don’t know about you, but when I watch TV shows, I don’t just sit there vegging out not looking to be taught something new, or be challenged to think. I look for what message the writer’s are attempting to send us, and what lessons they want us to learn from the stories they are creating. That being said, I do enjoy a good situation comedy, and there has been a plethora of choices for those that enjoy half hour stories that focus on making us laugh.  Therefore I thought it would be fun to examine five sitcoms that are popular among people in my age demographic (18-40). Three of them are more current programs and two of them are 90’s classics of which at least one of the two are still very popular depending on who you ask.


The show that famously was ‘about nothing’ redefined the situational comedy back when it debuted in 1989. Here was a program that simply had no real running plot or story and simply took Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up comedy routines in which he used a large amount of observational humor and channeled it into a television show. However, if one pays closer attention, it is easy to realize that deep down, this show teaches us to find humor in the small and often annoying things that happen to us on a daily basis. I can honestly say that since I began watching this series back in college, I have learned to laugh a little more at things that frustrate me, and not get as stressed as I used to whenever things don’t quite go my way. I still have a long way to go in this area, but I first realized how valuable laughter at small daily frustrations could be, from Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine.


The other 90’s sitcom that is still greatly popular among my age groups is this show that like “Seinfeld” also took place in the Big Apple. The show lasted an incredible 10 seasons between 1994-2004, and it followed the lives of six friends, three guys and three gals as they navigated relationships, job challenges and many other obstacles all over New York City. The subtle thesis message of this program though, is a rather question that they gave a resoundingly affirmative answer to by series end. That question is: “can men and women truly be close friends with each other and remain friends even if awkward scenarios arise like one person desiring to be more than friends while the other does not?” Over their ten years of being on the air, the writers showed us that their answer to this question was that they most certainly can, if, both people are willing to work through and weather those challenges. Sometimes as they showed us between a couple of the main characters, a friendship can develop into a beautiful romance, other times, not so much, but no matter what, if friends are committed to staying friends no matter what happens, the reward is great.

“The Office”

Here is a program that attempts to give a snarky look into what it is like to work in a white-collar office of a paper supply company. The beauty of this program is that it creates a hodgepodge of characters that personify the different personality types we all have run across in life, be it at work, at a party, and yes even at Church. We have bosses who lack strong leadership skills but deep down love their employees to death. We have salesmen who are driven to do their very best everyday, no matter the cost. We have pranksters, an HR man that no one likes, and some fun spirited receptionists. The basic running theme to this program if you pay close attention is that for some people, the office is truly a community where all must work together to do a job that appears ordinary, but can become extraordinary because of the different people who give that community its identity.  Speaking as Christian of course, I garner my sense of community and belonging from my church family, but a show like this is a reminder to me that non-Christians desire community just as much, and sometimes there place of work becomes that. Whether or not it is healthy or not is another topic. For this “Office” though, in the end, I think we can say it was a healthy place.

“Parks And Recreation”

Similar to “The Office” In both filming style and storyline plot, “Parks And Rec” took us on a seven-season journey into the lives of Pawnee, Indiana’s Parks and Recreation department. In some ways this show is also about the importance of community, but I feel ‘Parks And Rec” focused a bit more on individual character development, and because of that, teaches us more about, to apply a Christian message, how we all have gifts given to us by God to help us work with other people with different gifts to accomplish a united goal. Throughout the series, the main characters often had to work together to help get things done in the Pawnee community. They also would rally together to support each other for individual character’s projects, both work related and personal. In the Church, God often gives people gifts that are very diverse, but complement each other very well, and it “Parks And Rec” we saw how this can play out in not only work, but marriage and family as well.

“The Big Bang Theory”

This show has a great premise as it is. Follow a group of four nerds who work at a Southern California College in the Science and research department and spend all of their free time hanging out together playing strategy games, eating take out, and trying to understand girls. Then throw in a couple of girls into the mix and watch what happens. All a recipe for great comedy, with plenty of intelligent nuances thrown in for good measure, yet I see even more to the story of Sheldon, Raj, Leonard and Howard. This is a story about how a person can be brilliant from an academic standpoint, and clueless on how normal people function standpoint. It is about a main character in Sheldon who deep down desires to understand matters of the heart and struggles mightily to understand things we all have understood for years, or at least been good enough at understanding to fake like we do. It is a show that can conversely bring out all of our inner nerd, and pick our curiosity to learn more about what is going on in the world of physics and biology. It also requires you to pay close attention for just how funny it truly is, and at the same time how serious it actually may be. “The Big Bang Theory” is currently in its eight season, and has been renewed to last at least a full decade, which will probably make it one of the defining comedies of my generation for years to come.

Have you seen some of these things as well? If not, have I inspired you to pay closer attention to sitcoms in the future? I hope so, as I find that I have enjoyed these five programs a lot more because I paid attention, and hope to see more series that teach us great life lessons in the future!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Front Window: An Observational Piece on the Art of People Watching

It has been an interesting year living on a main street in Parma. My bedroom window faces the street, and in all my life I have never lived on a main street before. As one might imagine, this means there is plenty of traffic to watch streaking past at what I often suspect is faster than the posted speed limit of 35 miles per hour. That is one thing that I see a lot of as I sit on my bed at look out into the world around me. However, that is not the only thing I have observed. I also had a chance to observe the three houses that are across the street from me, and the interesting things about each one.

To begin, the house on the left hand side has a long driveway that curves behind that house. Most often when cars pull into this driveway they give the illusion that they disappear; and there is a bit of coming and going at this house. In fact this house is interesting because it seems that at all hours of the night cars often leave out of this driveway. I have seen headlights almost eerily creep out of this driveway at midnight on several occasions. Also I see cars pull into the driveway around 8:30am. One time more recently I saw a car get stuck trying to pull into this house’s drive. They had to back out onto the street and get momentum in order to plow through the hard, deep, snow. I can’t judge, as I got stuck in our driveway last week and had to dig myself out. My conclusion has been that the folks who live at this residence probably work night shifts.

The house directly across the street is equally if not more interesting. Back in August I began to pay closer attention to it when a police cruiser pulled into the driveway and the officer began looking around and inside the old late 80’s early 90’s model ford van parked in the driveway. The officer then proceeded to knock on the door of the house and no one answered. Since that summer night I have been watching this house a lot, and observed multiple cars and people stopping over to check the mail and at times go inside or into the backyard. One time I even watched as an elderly woman drove a ride on lawnmower out of the backyard and mowed the front lawn. I have since concluded that this house is empty, perhaps because the former resident has moved out into a retirement community, and her family and friends are helping get her house ready to sell, checking to make sure any mail sent to her former address gets to her at her new home.

The house on the right hand side is interesting for yet another reason. This house is the smallest of the three, yet it has the most cars in the driveway, and those cars are constantly moving in and out of the driveway all day long, changing positions and places at will. I can be sitting on my bed at 8am or 8pm and pretty much guarantee that I will see at least one car leave or return to this house within a half hour of watching. The vehicles sometimes change from day to day to as I have seen different cars and trucks, mostly American made, hold places in the driveway depending on the day. Some mornings a classic 1970’s era looking sky blue Chevy pays a visit; others a large F-150 pulls in for a while.  I also have seen many people of both genders and varying ages come out of these vehicles, from a guy in his 50’s to a young baby. I have thus concluded that this is the home of  multiple generations of a family, and each person of driving age has at least one vehicle in their possession. They all work different times of the day, accounting for the parking spots being in a constant state of flux.

Well there you have it, call me spy, call me a weirdo, or call me an acute observer. Heck, call me all three. I would be inclined to agree with you. Please note though that I have NEVER used binoculars and NEVER tried to look inside of these people’s homes. I have simply watched what I can see that goes on outside, which in my view is public information on a main street. People interest me, and imagining back-stories is fun. I could of course be totally off; I simply have practiced the art of observation.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

"Crazy America" A short story inspired by the songs of Harry Chapin and Warren Zevon

It was nighttime in the switching yard as a werewolf from London sat holding a cat in a cradle. He was attempting to write a love song when the headlights from a taxi broke the darkness and out stepped Roland the headless Thompson gunner, who invited the werewolf to share the cab fare back into Denver, where he was headed to search for things to do now that he was dead. On the way in Roland filled the wolf in on how he was standing in his house as it burned down where he got in a scruff for a gun with an excitable boy, who had started the blaze. The gun went off and blew off Roland's head.

As they rode along they passed a rock that had made America famous years before as a humorous antidotal story featuring a boy afraid the giant stone would spin so fast in a circle, it would carve a deep dangerous cavern in the ground. Most people chalked the story up to the pipe dream of a French inhaler.

Once they arrived in Denver, Roland paid the cab fair and took off with his friends, the ghosts of the members of the dance band on the Titanic, leaving the werewolf alone with the cat. He decided to rent a Studebaker and drive East towards the coast.

As the Sunday morning sunshine began to peak over the horizon, the werewolf was just crossing the Mississippi River and tuned his radio dial to WOLD, where upon he heard a news report out of Scranton Pennsylvania, where a man crashed a truck carrying 30,000 pounds of bananas into a paper packing plant. The driver named Mr. Bad Example, was pleading for the state to send him lawyers, guns and money, to help him rectify the damages, both legal and personal.

It is at this point that the werewolf dropped the cat and the cradle off at a local animal shelter, deciding that America is crazy, and perhaps being on his own may have him singing about being poor and pitiful sometimes, but his new song would not be a love song, but one that celebrated splendid isolation. Otherwise, he could easily see himself wanting to hit somebody, and not in the legal way, like in the sport of hockey. Once he got to the coast he would go back to England, though he would keep a bit of the United States in his heart for a while.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Top 14 Albums of 2014

The Top 14 Albums of 2014
By James Morovich

14. The War On Drugs- “Lost In The Dream.”

This debut album from The War On Drugs was easily the best indie release of the year. Imagine if Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers joined up with Coldplay and they wrote songs in both their styles as well as traveling over to Pink Floyd’s section the world once in a while. That is what they sound like to me. The title track and “Eyes To The Wind” are straight up Americana and perfect for the car, while “An Ocean Between The Waves” is Coldplay in their more adventurous musical soundscapes, while “Under The Pressure” sounds like prog rock circa 1974, not 2014! A unique release that has me excited for what this band does for years to come!

13. Coldplay- “Ghost Stories.”

A highly anticipated release last spring, “Ghost Stories” had a terrible lead single in “Magic,” that fortunately didn’t reflect what was overall a solid project from Coldplay, but certainly not their best effort. It boasts only nine songs and lasts just over 42 minutes, which just feels too short! As always they give us some highly energetic numbers like “A Sky Full Of Stars” and “Ink” though the ballads like the acoustic guitar driven “Oceans” and extended musical landscape “O” almost steal the show! Coldplay announced a couple of month’s back that they will record only one more album before calling it quits. I look forward to what that encore will hold for a band that is easily one of the most important parts of music culture this past decade.

12. Kye Kye- “Fantasize.”

While I am not as big a fan of electronic music as some, there are always those few artists who do it really, really well, and thus I can’t help but respect and yes, like what their muse may be. New Zealand natives Kye Kye seem to have grabbed the best of the electronic influenced American rock of the 80’s and charged forward with it full steam ahead! The lyrics often can buried under lush synthesizer drones, but upon multiple listens the listener picks up more and more. They reflect both parts of relationships, the woes and wonders, over the course of 12 songs, the highlights of which are “Honest Affection,” “Scared Or Selfish,” “I Already See It” and my favorite the guitar layered, perfectly at home on the radio in 1985 “Softly” which is by far the best song that was never played over the airwaves anywhere this year!

11. Ellie Holcomb- “As Sure As The Sun”

Ellie Holcomb is best known as a part of the band fronted by her husband Drew (Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors), but on “As Sure As The Sun” Mrs. Holcomb shows us that she is quite an artist in her own right. The songs are all beautiful piano driven poems of brokenness, uncertainty and doubt, tempered beautifully by the hope of Christ. In many ways these songs call to mind a lot of the Psalms written by King David, where both joy and pain sit side by side. She reminds us that “His mercy will never end” on the title track which opens the album and that sets the overall tone of the album.  It is one person’s journey ‘out of the darkness and into the Light” (“Marvelous Light”) and a realization that there is such a predicament as “The Broken Beautiful.” She reminds us that ultimately His “Love Never Fails” without sounding cliché and reminds us that we need to look to Jesus as “My Portion And My Strength.” It all culminates in “The Valley” which is easily one of the best songs I have heard about the struggle of depression and darkness against a Christian’s desire to Hope in Jesus who is the only One who can ‘make [us] whole’

10. All Sons & Daughters- “All Sons & Daughters.”

This is a quieter worship project, but one that is beautiful. While not quite as musically stripped back as Audrey Assad’s masterpiece from last year “Fortunate Fall,” this album fits similarly under a file of ‘good albums to listen to while seeking God in prayer.’ “God With Us,” “Christ Be All Around Me” and “Great Are You Lord” are fantastic examples of the emerging modern folk worship scene. This duo from Tennessee are showing no sign of slowing down either, as they continue to tour as well as lead worship at their home church as often as possible, which is where many of these songs were born in the first place.

9. John Mark McMillan- "Borderland."

John Mark McMillan has continued to push the boundaries of modern rock and roll since his career began independently in 2005. "How He "Loves," became an international worship sensation, and launched his career. However, McMillan as a whole doesn't craft songs in the same vein as that anymore. He now writes songs that express some doubts and struggles  ("Love At The End," "Guns/Napoleon" the title track) and others about affirmation on God's presence in our lives ("Future/Past," "Visceral"). It is an album that gets better and better the more listens you give it!

8. Steffany Gretzinger- "The Undoing."

This is easily one of the most personal worship projects unleashed to the music world in quite some time. Gretzinger writes songs about "Letting Go" of her control and letting God take over her heart. "Morning Song," "Out Of Hiding" and "No Fear In Love" are reminders to all of us that Jesus desires intimacy in our hearts, and these songs, with their often sparsely instrumented accompaniments, are a perfect partner in helping one who seeks such intimacy to find it.

7. American Authors- "Oh, What A Life."

Every once in a great while a pop/rock album is just plain good, and no matter how much I try to rationalize to myself that I should hate it, I simply cannot get any of the songs out of my head! "Oh, What A Life" is an album full of such songs! It truly is impossible not to want to tap your foot or even dance around to songs like "Best Day Of My Life," "Believer," "Hit It," and "Think About It." There is also an overwhelmingly optimistic tone to all of the songs, which fit the upbeat tempos. The unique part of American Authors is their ability to incorporate mandolins and banjos into their music without ever really sounding like Mumford & Sons or Rend Collective. While those bands straddle folk and bluegrass, American Authors are rock and pop exclusively.

6. Crowder- “Neon Steeple.”

 It was easy for fans to wonder what David Crowder would do after his Band went their separate ways in January of 2012.  It was certain that he wouldn’t be done with music forever, but what would his sound be like. Would he gravitate towards the bluegrass and folk stylings, or the more electronic tones we had heard on a few of the later David Crowder Band albums. The answer was, simply, that David Crowder would continue in the vein of merging both the roots sounds with the digital sounds. This album is a mix of both, and it is done very well! “Here’s My Heart,” “My Beloved” and “Jesus Is Calling” carry on the roots sound, while “I Am” and “Come As You Are” fuses both the folksy with the electronic. “You Are” and “Ain’t No Grave” are high energy, while “This I Know” is a quieter reminder of the simplicity of our Faith and Hope. All in all, this is a fantastic re-launch of an already stellar career!

5. Steve Taylor & The Perfect Foil- “Goliath.”

It has been twenty years since Steve Taylor last took a tour of duty behind a microphone! In that time he started and operated a small Christian label (“Squint”), wrote many lyrics for two Newsboys albums (“Going Public,” “Take Me To Your Leader”), and produced two films (“Second Chance,” “Blue Like Jazz”). Now he has returned to music with new band The Perfect Foil, and it is a fine, fine piece of 2014 rock and roll. Never have three-minute high-energy rock songs sounded so good. The themes range from our current desire to be seen on social media (“Rubberneck”), corrupt politicians (“Sympathy Vote”), and lethargic attitudes (“Happy Go Lazy”) all through the snarky eyes of the “Comedian.” If you are into witty lyrics and current events, you will love this album!

4. Mike Mains & The Branches- “Calm Down, Everything Is Fine.”

Mike Mains is another example of a thinking man or woman’s songwriter. He is a Christian, but he lyrically sings about things like doubt, and uncertainty which at times can come across as a bit challenging or even mildly offensive, particularly on the title track where he expresses frustration towards Jesus’ use of parables to illustrate Kingdom concepts. However, similar to Bono of U2, Mains’ honesty can also be refreshing and thought provoking. He can also give us reminders that we need to “Slow Down” sometimes from our fast paced lives. Give it multiple listens and you will glean more each spin cycle, I can guarantee it.

3. Rend Collective- “The Art Of Celebration.”

I first heard of this English band back in 2012 on their sophomore release “Homemade Worship By Handmade People” and was hooked immediately by their incredible energetic bluegrass influenced worship songs! This album continues in that vein, as songs like “Burn Like A Star” and “Create In Me” burst with musical speed and excitement that is sure to make you dance in your seat! “My Lighthouse” is a wonderful testimony to God being a guiding light bringing us ‘safe to shore.’ “More Than Conquerors” is straight out of Romans chapter eight, and my personal favorite on this project; a project born of a band that is sure to have a very bright future in the worship music scene!

2. NEEDTOBREATHE- “Rivers In The Wasteland.”

Back in April as “Rivers In The Wasteland” was about to hit the record store shelves, RELEVANT magazine published an article where they interviewed NEEDTOBREATHE. There, the band recounted how they had strayed away from their Christian roots and knew God was calling them back to those roots on their new project. Needless to say, they did just that. “Multiplied” is the most explicitly Christian song they have written since “Signature Of Divine (Yahweh).” “Wasteland” is a song written by someone who is emerging from a dark period in their life and finds hope in paraphrasing Romans 8, “If God is on our side, who can be against us?” Then there are the single ready tracks like “The Heart” and “State I’m In” which are going to easily get caught in your head for hours after you listen. This album is great because it meshes both the fun with the serious, and does so with instrumentation that rivals any roots rock band you can find currently making music.

1. The Choir- “Shadow Weaver.”

The Choir is one of my favorite bands in the history of Christian music, that is, Christian music that may not always explicitly say Jesus or quote scripture in every song, but music that is written out of inspiration by a worldview steeped deeply in Christianity. They started in the mid-80’s and have soldiered on as indie artists for over 15 years now, taking hiatus’s here and there, when needed. Derri Daughterry’s voice paired with drummer Steve Hindalong’s lyrics is a thing of beauty, and on ‘Shadow Weaver,” The Choir have made their best album in over a decade. The songs vary in theme, but “It Hurts To Say Goodbye” finds Hindalong lamenting the fact that three of his four daughters have now moved away from home to different places all over the country. On one of my favorite love songs of 2014, he writes that “True love is the antithesis of blue” (“Antithesis of Blue”) in reference to his many, many years of marriage to his wife. “Get Gone” is about the need we sometimes have for solitude, written with some creative imagery might I add. “Rhythm Of The Road” as you might expect is about touring, and “We All Know” is about something we don’t like to talk about very much, suffering. If you haven’t heard this album, you really need to hear it soon.

Honorable Mentions:

JOHNNYSWIM- “Diamonds”
Johnny Cash- “Out Among The Stars”
Colony House- “When I Was Younger”
LIGHTS- “Little Machines”
Anberlin- “Lowborn”
NONONO- “We Are Only What We Feel”