Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Top Ten Albums 2010

10.Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz
9. Gold Panda - Lucky Shiner
8. John Mark McMillan - The Medicine
7. Ra Ra Riot - The Orchard
6. Hammock - Chasing After Shadows ... Living With The Ghosts
5. The National - High Violet
4. The Choir - Burning Like The Midnight Sun
3. Tokyo Police Club - Champ
2. The Hold Steady - Heaven is Whenever
1. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

I feel like I might be getting old and predictable. The only real surprise on my list, to me at least, is Gold Panda, a nod to the indie/dance/club music that kids like my hipper-than-gold-chains friend Stephen Di Trolio. And I mean that with all respect. This year with Micah on the road from 1 year old to 2, I didn't see too many shows but two of my favorites were mewithoutyou and sleepy sun with Stephen. The best two though were David Bazan with full band at The Cellar Door and Justin Jones at The 9:30 Club.

I guess it's appropriate that one of my favorite songs of 2010 and my favorite album are both called "The Suburbs" since I've been living in the suburbs for a while and am now becoming a home owner in the suburbs. Still, this has been a great year and I can't accuse myself of not trying new things. From riding fixed-gear (uncomfortable at times but fun) to wearing raw selvedge denim (uncomfortable), I enjoy things like Sufjan Steven's The Age of Adz that require some commitment. Ultimately though the best thing about that album is the live performance of "Too Much" on late night TV.

When you turn 30, sometimes the familiar voices of favorite bands start to sound like old friends. See the selections of The Hold Steady, The National, Hammock and The Choir. Maybe it's more important to be a friend than to be cool. And maybe moving to the suburbs requires more commitment to making and maintaining old friendships than living in some great American city.

I'm cool with that.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

World Aids Day

Two weeks ago was World AIDS Day. While I think it's important to fight HIV/AIDS year around, it is a great opportunity to highlight the struggle of 33.4 million people currently living with the disease and remember those who have lost their lives. I am blessed to part of a church who cares about the struggle. See the ONE blog post about our Northpark Church event on Dec. 1. I am also thankful that our local media covers the important issues surrounding the global pandemic. See the Letter to the editor that the Fresno Bee published.

This year I have spent a considerable time thinking about why the fight against extreme poverty and infectious disease is so important to me. Most of the time, people around me are supportive of the efforts in general terms. But there are people who are critical at times and it's even more discouraging when others seem to ignore or minimize the issues. I fight against HIV/AIDS not because it's popular or trendy or I have a hero complex or because I love causes. I fight it because my faith demands it.

Several years ago I attended a Citizen’s Advocacy Training in San Francisco that was hosted by the ONE Campaign. During a group brainstorming session on how to involve more people in the fight against HIV/AIDS and extreme poverty, someone suggested partnering with local churches. Without blinking an eye, someone immediately blurted out “Churches don’t care about people who are living with AIDS.” People chimed in agreement “Churches are judgemental!” “Churches don’t want to work with us, they only care about their own programs!”

At that point, I raised my hand and said somewhat apprehensively, “Well, I am a youth pastor and I believe that fighting against extreme poverty and AIDS is exactly what the church should be about.”

Many of the people responsible for leading the fight on AIDS are by their own description not people of faith. That doesn’t bother me, I believe in working with anyone who shares our goal: An AIDS free generation of people. What bothers me is that the church, God’s own instrument of compassion, justice, mercy, salvation has been so slow to respond.

At the end of the day, I still believe in the church as an instrument of hope for the world. And I believe that Jesus Christ is still the answer for the world. To turn a blind eye to the suffering of millions of people is antithetical to that faith. To refuse to fight for justice for the poor, the marginalized, the voiceless, is showing no faith at all. In choosing to do something as an act of faith, I choose action and reject apathy. I choose hope over despair. I choose love over cynicism.