Desperate

As Jesus went, the people pressed around him.

And there was a woman who had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased.

And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed.

And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

Luke 8:42-48

Luke tells the story of a woman with a chronic health issue. She has suffered for twelve long years. Luke points out that she spent everything on physicians — down to her last dime. She’s tried every cutting edge procedure, every miracle cure. But twelve years on, she has nothing to show for it but an empty bank account. Her pre-existing condition persists.

But at some point she hears about Jesus.

And she’s desperate.

Desperate people hear the story of Jesus as Good News.

Matthew gives us a key detail in his telling of the story. She said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well,” (Matthew 9:21). This is interesting because it flies in the face of the prevailing theological wisdom of her day. Jesus was a rabbi, a miracle worker, a holy man clean and pure. This woman occupies the other end of the spectrum: she would have been considered unclean, defiled, and presumably sinful. The prevailing wisdom of the day was that unclean things ought not mix with clean things. The idea was that the uncleanliness was the more powerful agent, a toxin whose defilement would overcome the cleanliness and contaminate it like dirt in water.

But again, this woman is desperate in heart. And when you’re desperate, you have less use for convention.

No doubt she’s heard all about this great teacher who also commands the winds and the waves, the one who casts out demons and gives sight to the blind and causes the lame to walk again. Jesus said that He came to preach Good News to the poor (Luke 4:18) and after spending all of her money on treatment, she certainly qualifies as a poor woman in need of good news.

And in her desperation, she turns to Jesus. Really, she has nothing more to lose.

“If I could just touch his garment, I would be healed.”

This is interesting for another reason. There is a Jewish idea that the Messiah would have the ability to heal through touch. This is based on Malachi 4:2, “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.” This was taken to mean that the Messiah would have healing “in his wings,” meaning that even the tassels of His clothing could produce wholeness. To touch even the hem of His robe was to be healed.

Against the purity-culture tradition of her own day and the belief in the overwhelming power of defilement, this woman reaches even further back to the wisdom of God as revealed through the prophets and the desperate hope for redemption. In so doing, she rejects the claim that her physical defilement will contaminate Jesus in any way. She embraces a counter-narrative based on the belief that the Messiah’s healing power trumps her chronic affliction. Rather than contaminating the Messiah, she trusts in His overwhelming power to heal. This is a thoroughly hopeful move and must have required a tremendous amount of faith on her part.

By touching the hem / wings of His garment, this woman makes a definitive statement of faith. She trusts that Jesus is the Messiah sent from God.

And Jesus says this faith has made her well.


The woman in Luke 8 was afflicted with something that only Jesus could heal. In this way, her story matches our own.

We are a desperate people, too.

We often find ourselves desperate for meaning and purpose in our lives. And yet, we’re quick to reject our Creator and His purposes. That leaves us to think that purpose is something we can determine for ourselves. And yet, this seems unsatisfactory. If we could truly find meaning and purpose for ourselves by ourselves, why are so many of us miserable and discontent? We like to play God until we realize that the part is too great for us — which only increases our sense of desperation.

Have you noticed the way people drive these days? I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but in my town, excessive speeding is out of control. Just this morning, the driver beside me ran a red light going 60MPH in a 45MPH zone, completely oblivious to the fact that other drivers had to brake to keep from hitting him. I’ve been thinking all morning: we drive as if there is no authority that controls how fast we should drive. But then again, we do this because we live the rest of our lives as if there’s no authority there as well. And yet, there seems to be some desperation there, as if deep down we know that this isn’t the best way to live.

We are desperate for intimacy, yet we consistently reject God’s instruction on sexual morality. These commands are designed to meet our desires in the context of the covenant commitment of marriage. This is the answer to our deep desperation to connect physically and emotionally and spiritually.

We are desperate for truth, and yet we’ve made our feelings the ultimate arbiter of truth. Nowadays, something is to be considered true simply on the basis of whether I feel it. Descartes’s “I think, therefore I am” has been replaced with “I feel, therefore I am.” People consistently look within themselves for truth and morality, following the Disney spirituality that tells us to simply follow our hearts.

We are desperate for hope, something to which we can cling, but we foolishly put our hope in all the wrong things, that which is temporary and fleeting rather than that which is eternal.

We’ve always been a desperate people, desperately in need of what only Jesus can provide. Jesus Himself says, “Apart from me you can do nothing,” (John 15:5). That’s because we are afflicted with something only Jesus can heal — sin.

The Good News declares that Jesus looks on us in our desperation and He responds with compassion. There is truly healing in His wings. Our Luke 8 woman was right; it’s not that our sin is so great that we can contaminate Him. No, this gives sin too much credit, too much power. Rather, His compassionate love overwhelms our infirmities and washes them away. No toxin of sin will ever withstand the cleansing agency of His blood. When we reach for Him in desperation, He brings total healing to our hearts and souls.

Are you desperate for Him?

Jesus has compassion for the desperate in heart.

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The War on Drugs @ Avondale, Birmingham

Saw my favorite band tonight playing at Avondale in Birmingham. What a great show! And Jackson got a setlist when it was over!

Final guitar solo on “Pain”
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New PR

Jackson posted a new personal record today: 19:24! That’s more than a minute better than his previous PR! So proud of this young man and all of his hard work. It brings me so much joy to watch him run. He’s already had a great season and I can’t wait to see how he finishes over these next 5-6 weeks.

Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

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Reading List for Critical Theory, Identity Politics and Social Justice

Over the last year or two, I’ve been doing a deep study of Critical Theory and social justice. Given the near-universal acceptance of Critical Theory today, my view is bound to be very unpopular. But I have come to view Critical Theory as a false gospel in our day. (Strong language, I know. But I’m convicted about this.) Although the term may not be super familiar, the application of Critical Theory is at work all around us: in advertisements, in our universities, our government, even our churches. In recent election cycles, you’ve probably heard a bit about Critical Race Theory (just one application of critical theory in general) as politicians take positions on whether CRT should be taught in our schools. The recent wave of trans-activism is a byproduct of Critical Queer Theory, which is deeply indebted to philosophical postmodernism. If you work in an industry where diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training is mandatory, then you’re familiar with some of the tenets of Critical Theory and the ubiquity of identity politics in the workplace.

At one level, equity and inclusion are noble pursuits. Classic Liberalism is founded on the concepts of individual rights and liberties. So in the most basic sense of the terms, these are ideals to which we should aspire. But in recent years, classic Liberalism has been undermined by the deconstructivism of postmodern philosophy, which contends (quite cynically) that such pursuits are impossible. Postmodernity is incredulous of metanarratives — grand stories of meaning — except for it’s own subjectivist metanarrative. This is how we arrive at a place where it is common to hear things such as, “What’s true for you might not necessarily be true for me.” The only truth claim that is universally accepted is that all truth claims are purely subjective. (Ironic and inconsistent, I know.) This is the street level parlance of what has been called “applied postmodernism.”

Anyway, I know some of that philosophical mumbo-jumbo is off-putting to some, but these ideas have become hugely influential in our culture over the past few decades, so much so that to question their core tenets is to risk alienation or, at worst, the fallout of “cancel culture.” But there are plenty of critiques of the Critical Theory movement, from scholars and theologians to scientists and researchers to economists and activists. Here are a few of the most helpful texts I’ve come across in the last year or two that speak into this topic. I share these here in the event that some of you might have interest in a deeper study of this topic as well.

The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt.

I read this book in 2020 and I’m already considering going back and re-reading it. Lukianoff (a First Amendment expert) and Haidt (a social psychologist) interview hundreds of college students about an epidemic of anxiety, depression, and suicide resulting from the ideological echo chambering on campus. Rather than existing as a bastion of thought and expression, campus culture is the leading edge of “cancel culture” as speakers are routinely shouted down and student advocacy groups regularly demand “safe space” free from any ideology that might challenge the status quo (which, unsurprisingly, is rooted in liberal politics). Written in 2018, their data is still fresh and insightful.

Lukianoff and Haidt point out three lies that have become woven into the fabric of American education and childhood:

  1. What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.
  2. Always trust your feelings.
  3. Life is a battle between good people and evil people.

You can draw a straight line from these theses back to postmodern subjectivism and Critical Theory, which posits that there are only two categories of people: oppressed and oppressors. And yet, these three Untruths (as the authors call them) are firmly entrenched in the minds of many, not least among our youngest generations. A must-read if you have college students or (if you’re like me) you’ll have students going off to school in a few years. They’re likely walking into a thoroughly postmodern culture.

Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity — and Why This Harms Everybody by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay

I’m currently reading this one (almost finished) and I highly recommend it as well. Pluckrose and Lindsay helpfully explain Critical Theory’s origins from the philosophical postmodernism of the 1960s to what they term “applied postmodernism” today.

From the Amazon blurb about the book:

Have you heard that language is violence and that science is sexist? Have you read that certain people shouldn’t practice yoga or cook Chinese food? Or been told that being obese is healthy, that there is no such thing as biological sex, or that only white people can be racist? Are you confused by these ideas, and do you wonder how they have managed so quickly to challenge the very logic of Western society?

Maybe you’re familiar with some of these ideas, but I imagine that some of them might be a bit new to you. No matter; these ideas have a full head of steam and continue to entrench themselves as the new ethical impulses for many in our culture today. Pluckrose and Lindsay explain the different branches of the Critical Theory tree, with chapters devoted to Critical Race Theory, Critical Queer Theory, disability and fat studies, to name only a few. But not only do the authors help explain this in terms that are easy to understand, they provide a biting critique of Critical Theory as “a theory based upon a theory” that has now become gospel.

For example, they note the self-defeating impulse of critical race theory, which seeks to overthrow racism by finding racism everywhere. Rather than plotting any substantive path toward meaningful racial reconciliation, CRT maintains that white people alone are guilty of racism by their complicity in white supremacy, a sin for which there is no repentance or forgiveness, only guilt. This is immediately at odds with the Christian view of sin, which is my primary objection to CRT. To cite another example from the book, the authors point out the shift in critical studies toward “research justice,” wherein forms of knowledge such as experience, indigenous tradition, and even superstition are to be favored over rigorous academic disciplines (such as empiricism and peer review), due solely to the presupposition that science and mathematics are inherently social constructs invented by white men to maintain their positions of authority and power over oppressed peoples. And there’s the view that obesity is likewise a social construct, ignoring the plethora of data linking obesity to heart disease and other serious health risks in favor of “body positivity.” In this understanding, a doctor is bound not by the Hippocratic Oath to warn you of the risks of obesity, but rather should never “harm” you by “fat shaming” you, no matter how overweight you might be.

This is, of course, completely asinine. And yet, this is applied postmodernism, the practical application of the dangerous philosophical underpinnings of our culture. I’m indebted to this key text for capably explaining the overarching influence of critical theory today.

Christianity and Wokeness: How the Social Justice Movement is Hijacking the Gospel — and the Way to Stop It by Owen Strachan.

I read this book last year and I think it’s essential reading for my fellow Christians who are serious about understanding a theological interpretation of critical theory and the social justice movement. Overall, I found Strachan’s arguments to be well-informed and theologically grounded. He notes that CRT is an altogether different “gospel” than the one we find revealed in the Scriptures, with different understandings of justice, guilt, repentance, unity, and forgiveness. If you’d like to read an intellectual companion piece to Strachan, I also recommend Engaging Critical Theory and the Social Justice Movement by Neil Shenvi and Pat Sawyer. You can download a free PDF copy here. (Incidentally, Shenvi is a great Twitter follow on this topic.)

Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam by Vivek Ramaswamy.

As I said, there are many critiques of Critical Theory. Ramaswamy’s critque is economic in nature and I found it to be fascinating. A graduate of Yale Law School and the founder of the biopharmaceutical company Roivant Sciences, Ramaswamy writes against stakeholder capitalism and the dangerous mix of morality with consumerism. Why is this dangerous? From the book’s promotional material: “America’s elites prey on our innermost insecurities about who we really are. They sell us cheap social causes and skin-deep identities to satisfy our hunger for a cause and our search for meaning, at a moment when we as Americans lack both.” What’s worse is that they’re doing so simply as a means of acquiring a greater share of the market. I don’t pretend to be an economist, but Ramaswamy’s book helped simplify some of these economic issues in a way that I could easily understand. A really fascinating book.

I’m sure there are other helpful texts out there but these are the best ones I’ve come across related to this topic.

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My Little Nurse in Training

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Kid is a Machine

Love watching this kid run.

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Album of the Year Update

I love music. I’ve written about some of my favorite music here, particularly at the end of each year when I pick my “Album of the Year.” During the Covid lockdown days, I began developing a list of winners working back to when I first started developing my own musical tastes as a child. Growing up in our house, country was the only kind of music I heard; and even then, it was usually “old” country.

I’ve decided to work my AOTY list back to 1985. I would’ve been nine years old that year and I’d say it was really the last year of my childhood: the next year my sister would get married and move out of our house; that was also the year my father was diagnosed with cancer. But when I think back to 1985, I think of sitting on the floor beside my Dad listening to The Highwayman. It seems like that’s an appropriate place to begin the catalog of my favorite albums and the songs that have been a big part of my life over the years.

1985: Highwayman, The Highwaymen (Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson)

I have this memory of filling out a worksheet in Sunday school. We were getting a new teacher and she wanted to get to know us, so she asked us to fill out a form. Amid the questions about our favorite colors and Bible verses was one asking, “What is your favorite song?” The answer I put down was “Big River” by The Highwaymen, which confused the rest of my classmates. That’s when I realized that not everyone grew up listening to Johnny Cash. Their loss, I reasoned.

This was my Dad’s favorite record at the end of his life. It’s not a flawless album; even my Dad skipped over “Jim, I Wore a Tie Today” and “The Twentieth Century is Almost Over.” But the highlights are epic. The title track was an instant classic, a then-unheard-of collaboration of some of the biggest names in country music. “The Last Cowboy Song” and “Big River” still bring me joy, more than 35 years later. “Desperados Waiting for a Train” laments the loss of a hero in a young man’s life, which became especially poignant for me in the wake of Dad’s death. That lone would be enough to place this record in my personal pantheon of great music. This one’s for you, Dad.

1986: Guitars, Cadillacs, etc. etc., Dwight Yoakam

I knew we loved Johnny Cash because he was a rebel, the Man in Black who stood up for the underdog, the little man. And as much as I loved Cash, that was also “Dad’s music.” But when I heard Dwight Yoakam, something similar sparked in me. Here was a rebel country artist for my times. Though Yoakam released some of this material as an EP in 1984, it wasn’t until his deal with Reprise Records became official in 1986 that he burst onto the mainstream country airwaves. But even then, there was a throwback sound that I found fresh and appealing, twang and drawl wrapped in swirling electric guitars. As evidenced by his ubiquitous presence on this list, Yoakam’s music and ethos was a big part of my impressionable years, so much so that his Just Lookin’ for a Hit greatest hits collection was the first album I purchased with my own money. And right out of the gates, he released his signature hit, “Guitars, Cadillacs.” Even today, that opening riff grabs me and takes me back.

My Dad and I had Cash, but Dwight Yoakam was my guy. And he still is. This is where it all began.

1987: The Joshua Tree, U2

As I stated above, we only listened to country music around our house. But The Joshua Tree sound redefined rock music for me in more accessible ways. Plenty of people have written about the impact of this album (including myself, here) but this one was a gamechanger for me. This music was spiritual and personal, just like the best music I’d ever heard from Cash or Yoakam. If my musical tastes would eventually shift more toward rock — and all it’s varied forms (indie, alternative, etc.) — that’s largely due to the influence of this record.

1988: Buenas Noches from a Dark and Lonely Room, Dwight Yoakam

The hits are plentiful, including “I Sang Dixie” and the all-timer “Streets of Bakersfield,” but deep cuts like “What I Don’t Know” and “One More Name” are just as good.

1989: The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses

No, I wasn’t listening to The Stone Roses in 1989. But I’m retroactively recognizing the impact of this album as a precursor to the kind of 90s alt/rock that would soundtrack my teen years. It would’ve been cool to see what would’ve happened if these guys had stayed together.

1990: If There Was a Way, Dwight Yoakam

This is peak-Yoakam for me. “Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose” and “You’re the One” are two of my favorite songs EVER. Even though his next record, This Time, marked his commercial zenith, I contend that this is his strongest batch of songs top to bottom.

1991: Achtung Baby, U2

Not every U2 reinvention would land (remember Pop?) but this one sure did. Having already perfected their sound on The Joshua Tree, U2 would pivot to create Achtung Baby, a record that was simultaneously reflective of the evolving rock landscape and yet still ahead of its time.

1992: Del Rio, TX, 1959, Radney Foster

This kind of list is always evolving in a kind of “living document” kind of way. But I tend to give special weight to the music I was listening in any particular year. For a long time, I had R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People here, but that wasn’t really what I was listening to the most in those days. The artist I listened to the most back in 1992 was probably Radney Foster. This album was a commercial success, which is part of the reason I loved it. “Just Call Me Lonesome” and “Nobody Wins” were both huge hits on country radio back then. But I loved Foster’s quieter, less radio-ready moments as well, such as “Went For a Ride” and “Easier Said Than Done” and “Old Silver.” It’s a shame that Foster didn’t find more long term footing on Music Row; he’s a great talent and I really like his work.

1993: August and Everything After, Counting Crows

This one is one the short list of best debut albums of all-time. And you know I must really like it if I ranked it ahead of Yoakam’s This Time!

1994: Cracked Rear View, Hootie and the Blowfish

This was a weird year for me. I was a Junior in high school; I was still listening to a lot of country music, but I was also getting into Billy Joel and classic rock; Kurt Cobain committed suicide and my Mom died. In that strange time came a band with a strange, quintessentially 90s name and a classic sound. Nobody would every say that Hootie and the Blowfish were setting out to make “important” music. But it sure sounded good coming out of the speakers of my little Honda Accord. And back then, that was all I needed.

1995: What’s the Story Morning Glory?, Oasis

This was the year I graduated from high school and fell in love with Sunny. I also fell hard for Oasis, a loud, brutish British rock band who styled themselves after the Beatles, only with more attitude. There’s more style here than substance but I ascribed my own meaning to songs like “Wonderwall,” “Hey Now!” and “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” That last one has been especially important to me and reminds me of those early days with the girl who would become my wife and the mother of my children. “Don’t look back in anger, at least not today.”

1996: Bringing Down the Horse, The Wallflowers

Sunny and I saw The Wallflowers open for the Counting Crows in 1996 when they played at the old Starwood Amphitheater in Nashville. One of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Love this album.

1997: OK Computer, Radiohead

I first came across Radiohead in 1995 while I was on a mission trip to Honduras (long story) and I would rank The Bends as one of the best “runner up” albums that didn’t quite win my AOTY. But 90s guitar rock doesn’t get any better than OK Computer.

1998: White Ladder, David Gray

Jackson and I went to see David Gray’s anniversary tour commemorating the release of this record (which was delayed by Covid). I was blown away at how this music still connects with people both older and younger than me. Originally recorded in 1998, “White Ladder” kept hanging around for another year or two before “Please Forgive Me” and “Babylon” finally penetrated the mainstream.

1999: Agaetis Byrjun, Sigur Ros

I have no idea how to pronounce this album’s name. I just know it’s awesome. I had struggled to find a great album I loved from this year until I came across this one during lockdown. These beautiful melodies brought me a lot of comfort during that weird time.

2000: Kid A, Radiohead

I really like Third Day’s Offerings, also released in 2000, but that one is comprised of a lot of live recordings of previously released songs. And Kid A stands as an absolute masterpiece. If you’re interested, Steven Hyden has a great book about this album called This Isn’t Happening: Radiohead’s Kid A and the beginning of the 21st Century.

2001: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco

The seminal work by “the American Radiohead.”

2002: A Rush of Blood to the Head, Coldplay

I wrestled with this one, too; Home by the Dixie Chicks is such a good record. But in the end, I went with the album that vaulted Coldplay into the stratosphere. Somebody will still be singing “The Scientist” a hundred years from now. (Not sure I could say the same thing for “White Trash Wedding.”) And as deep cuts go, “Warning Sign” is really good.

2003: The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place, Explosions in the Sky

Some years, there’s simply no country or rock album that grabs me. In such years, there will inevitably be an instrumental record that stands out. Explosions in the Sky have a rich canon, but I’m guessing this is their most popular release. When you wonder where you’ve heard this music before, think “Friday Night Lights.”

2004: My Mother’s Hymnbook, Johnny Cash

A lot of critics point to Cash’s first collaboration with Rick Rubin as his late-career masterpiece. And I’m eternally thankful for Rubin bringing Cash’s art back to the mainstream in such a meaningful way in the mid-90s. But My Mother’s Hymnbook will always be my favorite Cash record. Sparse, accompanied by only his own guitar playing, Cash plays hymns he first heard on the lips of his mother as a child in Arkansas.

2005: A Collision, David Crowder Band

This was the year I started blogging about my favorite music, crowning Crowder’s genre-spanning worship album as that year’s AOTY.

2006: American V: A Hundred Highways, Johnny Cash

Rubin would release a couple of albums worth of Cash recordings after his death, but A Hundred Highways contains some of my personal favorites spanning the entirety of the American Recordings era. Album opener “Help Me” is so moving; suffering from myriad health issues which impact his speech, Cash never sounded more vulnerable, which provided even more meaning to the prayerful lyrics. This song moves me so much — and gets so directly to the heart of the gospel — that I want it played at my funeral.

2007: Emotionalism, The Avett Brothers

The Avett Brothers were my favorite band for a while after the release of this incredible slice of Americana.

2008: The Gabe Dixon Band, The Gabe Dixon Band

It’s a shame that Gabe Dixon isn’t my generation’s Billy Joel.

2009: Sigh No More, Mumford & Sons

I don’t think of myself as a wishy-washy person, but I keep going back and forth on this one. I think U2’s No Line on the Horizon is a criminally underrated record. Songs like “Magnificent” and “Moment of Surrender” weren’t as seismic as previous singles, but they’re every bit as well written and performed. But with each passing year, I wonder if this recording holds up. On the other hand, the Mumford & Sons debut definitely sounds like that moment in time when “folk rock” was bandied about without an ounce of irony to describe (explain?) the impact of bands wearing vintage clothing and playing banjoes. I give the slightest of nods to Sigh No More, but I’ll probably keep puzzling this one out for a while.

2010: The Suburbs, Arcade Fire

While I’m at it, I might give new consideration to The National’s High Violet. But it’ll be pretty hard to dislodge this masterpiece from Arcade Fire.

2011: Bon Iver, Bon Iver

At the time, I really labored over which was the superior album: Bon Iver’s self-titled or the eponymous debut of Seattle’s The Head and the Heart. Seems like a no-brainer now. Bon Iver only makes classics.

2012: Life is People, Bill Fay

I think this guy is awesome, but it gives me pause when I think about how much my son Jackson can’t stand his songs. Mainly because Jackson has really, really good taste in music. But maybe this is just evidence that I’m comfortably settling into my middle years. That’s fine. Bill Fay is awesome. Dude went, like, 40 years in between records for some reason. But that only adds to his mystique. Plus he sings unabashedly about his faith in Jesus.

2013: Southeastern, Jason Isbell

My favorite album of all-time. 2013 marks the beginning of the golden age of my musical tastes, my introduction to Isbell, the War on Drugs, and Stapleton, among others. 2013 also marked the second time The National ended up as a bridesmaid on my AOTY list. They’re probably my favorite band to never win.

2014: Lost in the Dream, The War on Drugs

Listening to this record today, there’s a clear upgrade in production on their more recent releases. But even if you want to call this album more “low fi,” no matter; it’s still an absolute masterpiece. This year’s runner-up, the self-titled Augustines album, is another incredible record.

2015: Traveller, Chris Stapleton

What a voice. What a batch of songs. This qualifies as the first mainstream country AOTY winner for me since Radney Foster in 1992.

2016: A Moon Shaped Pool, Radiohead

A gorgeous album, highlighted for me by seeing this tour in Madison Square Garden in 2018.

2017: A Deeper Understanding, The War on Drugs

My favorite rock album ever. Still sounds as fresh to my ears today as it did the first time I heard it. And it’s looking like this will also be the year of the best 400 Unit release, The Nashville Sound.

2018: Con Todo El Mundo, Khruangbin

2018 was a weird year for me musically. I struggled to find a record that really grabbed me the way some of these other songs and albums had in previous years. I really like some of what I heard from artists like Leon Bridges, Lauren Diagle, and CHVRCHES, but the whole of their works left me lacking. But it all clicked when I heard Khruangbin. If you’ve ever watched Netflix’s “Outer Banks,” then you’ve heard Khruangbin. This Texas-based trio makes great — if hard to define — music. Their Wikipedia page lists their genres as “psychedelic rock / surf rock / funk / instrumental rock / dub / rock.” That about covers it.

2019: ii, Bon Iver

Like I said, Bon Iver only cranks out classics. Jackson and I saw them in Atlanta earlier this year and we were amazed at how they replicated their layered album sounds in a live show.

2020: Letter to You, Bruce Springsteen

It still amazes me that Springsteen could put out such a vital sounding record this late into his career. You could make a killer greatest hits album out of his 21st century output alone. “Song for Orphans” is one of my favorite songs he’s ever written — and he waited until nearly 50 years into his recording career to release it! Honorable mention to Taylor Swift’s folklore and Starting Over by Chris Stapleton. I had a hard time deciding my winner in 2020 for sure.

2021: I Don’t Live Here Anymore, The War on Drugs

A trifecta of phenomenal albums from my favorite band. There was really very little drama here once I got my hands on I Don’t Live Here Anymore. And these songs somehow sound even better live. Looking forward to seeing them in Birmingham later this month. In the last 12 months, I’ve also come to really appreciate Long Lost, Lord Huron’s great 2021 release. Another deserving bridesmaid.

That’s my updated AOTY list, which you can also check out here. This naturally causes me to think about my 2022 list and which artist will win. I should have an answer for you in another couple of months.

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2022 MLB Review: September

This has really been a fun MLB season, although I haven’t taken the time to write much about it. A few weeks ago, it was looking like there were about four primary contenders: the Dodgers and Mets in the National League; the Yankees and Astros in the American League. Those four teams still look strong (although much has been made of the Yankees troubles of late), but several other clubs have been making a move toward the top. The Braves, in typical fashion, have put together a nice run these past few months, getting stronger and stronger as they prepare to defend their title. Same goes for the Cardinals, who have one of the best records in the game since the Trade Deadline a month ago.

I want to take a quick inventory of each division, recognizing the MVP and Cy Young “winner” of each of the league’s six divisions as we prepare for the real hardware to be distributed at season’s end.

National League East

MVP: With Juan Soto relocating to the Padres, Austin Riley has emerged as the top young bat in this division. Ronald Acuna might be flashier, but Riley has been the Braves best hitter over the course of the season. His .912 OPS ranks as the fifth-best in the National League and he defends his position extremely well. Honorable mention to Pete Alonso, but Riley is the superior offensive performer in my opinion.

Cy Young: Two Braves starting pitchers are having equally dominant seasons: Max Fried and Kyle Wright. Fried has been a frontline pitcher for Atlanta for the past few years. But Wright has really put together an unexpectedly fine year, especially given his track record coming into 2022. He has always had the pedigree, but it has all come together for the Huntsville native this season. That alone has me rooting for him in this race. Honorable mention goes to Miami’s Sandy Alcantara.

National League Central

MVP: With a month to go, Paul Goldschmidt is threatening to become the NL’s first Triple Crown winner since the FDR administration. Lesser cases can be made for Riley, Mookie Betts, and Goldy’s teammate, Nolan Arenado, but as the calendar flips to September, the senior circuit MVP is Goldschmidt’s to lose.

Cy Young: I’d really like to cast a vote for Adam Wainwright here, given that the 41-year-old has once again been a stabilizing force in the Cardinal rotation. But the class of the NL Central is still Corbin Burnes. The NL Cy Young award might be the most wide open of any of the major awards, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see Burnes repeat.

National League West

MVP: The Dodgers are not only the class of this division once again, but they are the clear favorites to win it all, boasting a run differential of nearly 300 runs. Trae Turner and Freddie Freeman have been incredible in their first full seasons in Dodger blue, but Betts has been a true catalyst out of the leadoff spot. He missed a little time early on, which may impact his counting stats in the final tally, but Mookie has proven to be the class of the division once again.

Cy Young: His division rival Zac Gallen has been the hottest pitcher in baseball over the last month or so and his Dodger teammates Julio Urias and Tyler Anderson have been great in their own right, but Tony Gonsolin has been the best pitcher in the NL West so far. His 16-1 record is supported by a league-best 2.10 ERA over 128 innings. Who saw that coming?

American League East

MVP: Aaron Judge is the no-brainer here. The Yankee outfielder is on pace to eclipse Roger Maris’s team record of 61 home runs, which would be the ninth 60-HR season in MLB history and the first since the Steroid Era. Judge’s prolific output will likely garner him the American League MVP award in November, although a compelling case can be made for the league’s reigning recipient out west. Divisional honorable mention goes to Rafael Devers of Boston.

Cy Young: Tampa Bay’s Shane McClanahan has been the class of this division so far in 2022. The hard-throwing lefty has been a dominant force atop Tampa’s rotation, which culminated in an All-Star Game starting nod. He’s cooled a bit of late, having already surpassed last season’s innings total. But he will deservedly receive some Cy Young consideration at season’s end.

American League Central

MVP: The Guardians’ Jose Ramirez is having another incredible season, as his .898 OPS ranks third in the league. Cleveland has somewhat surprisingly emerged as the frontrunner in a bit of a weak division, thanks in large part to Ramirez’s work at the dish.

Cy Young: Justin Verlander entered the 2022 season as a true wild card, having thrown a mere six innings since winning his second Cy Young award in 2019. But at 39 years old, Verlander has put together a phenomenal season, winning 16 games with a league-leading 1.84 ERA over 152 innings. A calf injury has him shelved for the time being, which may open the door for another surprise contender. But even if he doesn’t win his third Cy Young award, Verlander is a virtual lock for Comeback Player of the Year. Truly remarkable.

American League West

MVP and Cy Young: Last season, Shohei Ohtani took the league by storm, doing things that hadn’t been done in the major leagues since Babe Ruth was hurling shutouts and swatting homers in the early days of his career a century earlier. Ohtani was deservedly recognized as the league’s Most Valuable Player on the heels of a campaign that included 46 home runs, 100 runs batted in, 26 stolen bases, 9 wins, a 3.18 ERA over 130 innings pitched and a total WAR (wins above replacement) of 9.0.

Although his 2022 offensive numbers are lagging behind last season’s output, Ohtani has become a truly dominant force on the mound this year, with a 2.68 ERA over 128 innings and a league-leading 12.4 strikeouts-per-nine-innings. McClanahan and Verlander will have compelling Cy Young cases as well, and if Judge hits 60+ homers, he will likely win the league’s MVP award, but you can legitimately argue that Ohtani is even more deserving of the award this season than he was last year. I really wish both Judge and Ohtani could share the MVP honors the way Keith Hernandez and Willie Stargell split the award in the National League in 1979.

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Chapel

Super proud of Joshua for speaking in high school chapel today. He stood in front of his peers and delivered a ten-minute talk about the example of Joseph from the Old Testament. I love how he shares his heart whenever he speaks.

Joshua sharing in Madison Academy high school chapel

I especially loved how Joshua used Joseph’s story to point us toward the freedom we have in Christ.

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David Gray @ Ascend Amphitheater

Jackson and I saw David Gray at Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville this week. The venue was fantastic (first time we’d been there) and David Gray was on point. He sang the entirety of his “White Ladder” album and he sounded incredible.

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