Can a year be summed up?

Now to the real business of categorising the year just gone.
There is no real way to do this, who cares what the top ten films, songs, books etc were really. But for a flavour of my year. Here’s the top albums and books that transformed my world this year, the more observant will notice that they weren’t all produced this year, and that’s because this is all about me and my year, rather than the year itself. Are you following? Anyway. Let us begin.

Firstly let us eschew the numerical system. It serves only to get in the way of the list making, and how can I decide whether something scores higher on impact in my year than others? (I wrote that entire sentence so I could use the word eschew. I like it.)

Albums:

You know it’s coming so I’ll mention it first to get the inevitable over with.
Bright Eyes- I’m wide awake it’s morning.
Gladly I now own this Cd (Christmas being good for something) and again please buy it now. Songs that tear away your insides, words that leave you reeling and a voice to twist itself around your soul. I’ve gone on about this far to much but there you go. It was the only thing on my cd player for a month. That’s got to have an effect, surely.

Patti Smith- Horses
The first time I have bought an album that I ‘ought’ to own and loved it. It’s a classic, people go on about it, artists have been influenced by her, and it’s justified. I can see why. The first record that has scared me for a long long time.

Eddi Reader- Angels and Electricity.
This year was the year of discovering Eddi Reader, thanks to a wonderful friend. She has the saddest, most tender, most lovely voice and lyrics going. What can you do with a lyric like: “Please don’t ask me to dance, the skin remembers what the heart forgets, and I might do something that I regret.” The whole album settles over you a veil of tender sadness almost to hard to bear.

Jack Johnson- Inbetween Dreams
The soundtrack to my summer. Lazy evenings around a BBQ, summer sun shinning on the sea, walking around barefoot and watching waves lap the shore. Laid back and chilled.

KT Tunstall- Eye to the Telescope
It has songs that are fun and mean nothing, which is always good if you find yourself in an intense emotional turmoil and need some release. It also has songs that express all you might want to say to yourself or a friend, ‘Heal over’ and ‘Through the Dark’ being on endless repeat for the whole of September.

And some others, Magic Numbers, Laura Veirs, The Go Team, Psalm Drummers and lots of Paul Simon.

Books:

Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places- Eugene Peterson
Another, ‘you must buy this right now’, book. Finally finished it at Christmas and still surrounded by his wisdom and the reality of the God we live with. The challenge to live the reality of what we believe and be congruent people remains.

The five people you meet in heaven- Mitch Adern
Fascinating glimpse of how we attempt to make sense of our confusing lives and the point of our existence.

We need to talk about Kevin- Lionel Shriver
A book to seriously mess with your head and make you wonder why any of us reproduce. Again big questions as to why we are here, how to answer the Big Question in our lives and whether passing that question onto the next generation is really the same as answering it.

Harry Potter and the half blood prince- JK Rowling.
Ok so it’s not the best written book in the world, by a long way. But it still shook me up and made me cry on my birthday, and I did spend the whole summer reading it to a friend.

The Search for Intimacy- Elaine Storkey
Containing the best quote- head to the end of the October archives to check it out.

Conversations with Bono- Michka Assayas
I refuse to join the endless over-earnest ‘is Bono a Christian’ debate. Read the book, discover a man under Grace and be intrigued as ever at insight into a part of someone’s life.

So there you go. Do I understand the year just gone any better? Not really, but it’s been nice to revisit the companions I had along the way. It was a year, I messed up, God remained full of mercy. I made friends, I got to know some more people, I got to know friends in a deeper way, I did my job, I got it wrong, I encouraged people, I got jealous of some people, I fed people, I learnt to knit, I joined a band, I went to Bulgaria, Estonia, the Lake District, Cornwall and Devon. In short, I lived. God lived in me and did stuff. I got to see some of it, be a part of some of it and get in the way of some of it.

And now there is a new year. A new canvas to write on. The one who walked with me last year waits here holding out his hand and calling me on. I walk with him.

And so here’s a bit of Psalm 5, my hope for the year, my prayer for my mates and me.

“But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.”

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