2019 Book List

As has become tradition, here’s my reading list for 2019. My favourites are in bold!

  • How The Bible Actually Works by Pete Enns (review)
  • Your Future Self Will Thank You by Drew Dyck
  • The Brothers K by David James Duncan
  • The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch
  • Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
  • Educated by Tara Westover
  • The Naked Now by Richard Rohr
  • Holy Envy by Barbara Brown Taylor
  • Comedy Sex God by Pete Holmes
  • The Parade by Dave Eggers
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • A World Lost by Wendell Berry
  • Beating Guns by Shane Claiborne and Michael Martin
  • The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr
  • THIS by Michael Gungor
  • Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
  • Finding God in the Margins by Carolyn Custis James
  • Finding God in the Waves by Mike McHargue
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  • The Magicians by Lev Grossman
  • The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
  • The Magician King by Lev Grossman
  • The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman
  • A Man Called Ove by Federick Backman
  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  • Miracles and Other Reasonable Things: A Story of Unlearning and Relearning God by Sarah Bessey
  • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
  • The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler
    by John Hendrix
  • Winter of the World by Ken Follett
  • Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus by Jim Wallis
  • 2/3 of The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

My Top Albums of 2019

Wow it’s been a while since I added anything to this website. Hosting a daily podcast will limit personal writing time, I guess.

We are nearing the end of the year, so I thought I would post my favourite albums of 2019. Before you judge my taste in music too harshly, yes I know I have a type and yes I know some of these choices aren’t cool for 2019. But I like what I like, dammit!

So here we go.

  • Phoenix – Pedro the Lion
  • NATIVE TONGUE – Switchfoot
  • Rattlesnake – The Strumbellas
  • Pep Talks – Judah & The Lion
  • Living Mirage – The Head And The Heart
  • People – Hillsong United
  • Fever Dream – Of Monsters and Men
  • i,i – Bon Iver
  • III – The Lumineers
  • Cause And Effect – Keane
  • Closer Than Together – The Avett Brothers
  • Surviving – Jimmy Eat World
  • Atlas: II – Sleeping At Last
  • Reworked – Snow Patrol
  • Everyday Life – Coldplay

If I have time, I’ll go back and list my favourites from the past decade but that seems pretty ambitious at this point.

What were you listening to this year?

Introducing Locked On Boston Bruins

As I’ve been pounding home ad nauseam on Twitter, I’m incredibly excited to soon be hosting a new daily Boston Bruins podcast.

I recently recorded a trailer, which you can listen to by clicking here:

LOBB

For the readers among us, here’s the transcript to help get you acquainted with what you can expect.

Hello and welcome to the Locked on Boston Bruins Podcast, part of the Locked On Podcast Network. My name is Ian McLaren and I am excited and honoured to be the host of this new daily podcast about all things Spoked B. You can follow me on Twitter @iancmclaren and the podcast @LO_BostonBruins.

Listen and follow for free on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, Pocket Casts or wherever you listen to podcasts, and you can play Locked on Boston Bruins on your smart speakers by saying play podcast Locked on Boston Bruins.

So what are we doing here?

Your favorite hockey team. Every Day. That’s the simple but powerful premise Locked On was founded on. Going forward, you can expect around 25-30 minutes on the latest in Bruins news,  and insights. And don’t worry – I won’t be going it alone every day. I’ll be connecting with talented folks who cover the team in person on a daily basis for their unique perspectives.

Why me?

I feel very fortunate to be able to host this show.n I have been following this team for 30 years or so, and the Bruins are without question my No. 1 sports love. 

I started writing about them several years ago for The Hockey Writers and SB Nation. That experience – and some other independent hockey writing – helped me secure a position as an NHL News Editor for theScore, which I held for 5 seasons. Through theScore, I was able to cover the league from afar on a daily basis, and I also had the opportunity to cover Mark Recchi’s Hockey Hall of Fame inductions and Toronto Maple Leafs practice.

I also hosted my own podcast, through which I was able to interview the likes of Rich Peverley, Kelly McDavid, and Canadian celebrities Jeremy Taggart and Jonathan Torrens.

Speaking of which, this won’t be an exclusively hockey podcast. As an avid pop culture enthusiast, you can expect references to TV, movies, books and music, and the odd dad joke as well.

But first and foremost, this is a black and gold zone, a daily Boston Bruins podcast where will we answer questions like:

  • How much gas does Chara have left?
  • Why is Patrice Bergeron so perfect?
  • Is it Zach Senyshyn season?
  • What 2nd line winger will Sweeney acquire before the trade deadline this season?
  • How good can Charlie McAvoy be?

I’m very excited to get started, it’s going to be a blast and I hope you all enjoy this first season with me. Please subscribe, rate and review, and tell your Bruins-loving friends about this great new show Locked on Boston Bruins.

It all gets started on Sept. 30, a few days before the season opener.

Let’s. Go.

5 simple suggestions for enjoying NHL training camps

In years past, I was very plugged into NHL training camps. This, however, will be my second fall out of the full-time hockey writing game.

Last September, I was lamenting my (lack of) place in the game, but stumbled upon some cool writing opportunities and hot through it. This year, I’ll be back writing here, there and anywhere, and am just trying to have some fun out there.

Sadly, we’re still a few weeks out from the regular season. Here’s some tips on how to get through the way too long training camp and seemingly endless exhibition schedule.

5 suggestions

  1. Don’t freak out over line combinations and defensive pairings. The preseason is very fluid, things can and will change before opening night. Let the coaches tinker.
  2. Root for the guys who likely won’t make the squad. Exhibition games can be boring as hell, but for some of these players, it’s the only time this season they’ll put on NHL jerseys. Cheer like hell when they score and hope they make enough of an impression to beat the odds.
  3. Don’t judge the kids too harshly. There’ll be a lot of rookies out there trying to impress, some of whom will succeed and fail to varying degrees. Go easy on the ones who fall into the latter camp.
  4. Remember who can end up where. Here’s a good primer on why some young players can be assigned to the AHL while others have to be returned to their junior clubs. It’ll help you avoid misassigning players on Twitter.
  5. Pray for trades. There’s still plenty of unsigned RFAs out there, and several teams looking to create cap space, dump contracts or add to the roster. Trades make any day much more entertaining. Give me as many as possible.

What did I miss?

Blake Griffin wonders why Christians don’t act more like Jesus

Blake Griffin just dunked on the church.

Image result for blake griffin

The NBA superstar appeared on You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes this week, and as is custom on this podcast, the topic of faith and the meaning of life came up towards the end of the lengthy conversation.

Griffin said he grew up going to a non-denominational church that’s now a huge mega-church, and he understandably doesn’t know how to feel about that evolution.

Despite moving away from that foundation and questioning that model, he still retains a measure of faith.

“I still like the idea of believing in God,” he said. “If you don’t, fine. I like it. It gives me something bigger.”

Griffin then added more context to his faith journey. He went to a Christian high school where he attended weekly chapel, took bible courses and learned about other religions in order to refute them.

To explain where he’s at now, he then worked through a common line of thinking that dissuades many from the church these days.

Note: He was careful with his thoughts here and I transcribed as best as I could as he stopped and started along the way,

“My issue with Christianity is I just don’t understand how a religion that is following somebody who stood for these things … In the Bible, you know, Jesus would eat with the sinners, the prostitutes. And yet Christians believe, for instance, homosexuality is a sin. But then you can’t accept? I don’t get it. Why can this person who you’re supposed to be following do these things but you can’t?”

Great question, Blake.

Jesus was notoriously hanging out with those on the margins of society, and yet Christianity is sadly seen as a religion that makes in/out, us/them distinctions.

It doesn’t make any sense at all, and that disconnect is a big reason why Millennials in particular are running from the church.

As a side note, I had no idea Griffin is a stand up comic in the off season, making his chat with Pete even more interesting. Pete’s utter lack of basketball knowledge is also hilarious.

I listen to every YMIW, but this one’s got wide appeal and should be a stand out episode.

I’m officially more of a Griffin fan than I was a few hours ago.

Paradise is a Parking Lot

 

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you’ve likely heard me talk about Derek Webb. For the better part of 20 years now, he’s been one of my favourite musical artists, from his time with Caedmon’s Call through his solo career (and podcast, which I appeared on).

Webb’s Album ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ turns 10 this year, and it remains one of his best, in my opinion.

Here’s what I wrote about it back in the day:

A huge theme on Stockholm Syndrome is sexuality. I have already blogged about the not so controversial song What Matters More, but sexuality is also a theme in the upbeat but cautionary tale of Jena and Jimmy, in What You Give Up to Get It [Like sex when you’re too young … Oh it’s never quite worth what you give up to get it], and in the final tune American Flag Umbrella. I am a big fan of the song Freddie Please, a song directed to the figurehead of Westoboro Baptist Church, infamous for their anti-homosexuality demonstrations featuring the ‘God Hates Fags’ signs. This song seems to be sung from the perspective of Jesus, who asks this question of Phelps: ‘Freddie please / How could you do this to Me? / How could you tell me you love Me when you hate Me Freddie please?’

One of my favorite songs right now is Becoming a Slave, which addresses the reality of imbalance in the world in which we live and causes the listener to consider the price that is paid in order for us to have the ‘things’ that we value so highly – ‘There’s always a price to pay / It’s gotta hit somebody’s back / Trust me, new worlds / Don’t just build themselves.’ Slavery is alive and well in the world, and Christians must sit back and think about our implicit participation in oppressive systems. We are slaves to our ‘stuff’ whether we acknowledge it or not, and this cycle will continue until we fight for ‘justice in the system.’

Other key tracks for me are Heaven, Black Eye and The Proverbial Gun, but who I am kidding, I dig them all!

While some may argue that this album is quite critical of contemporary Christianity and perhaps might even come across as judgmental and short on grace, I would say that Webb provides an important prophetic voice that constantly points us back to the key question, ‘what matters more?’ While doctrinal debates rage on, the world around is desperately looking for a group of people to embody a different, more loving way of living. This is what the Church has to offer; that we can be a hand to hold to keep the world on its feet, a reminder that, though Chrust, the following is true: ‘And in the end it will all be OK / That’s what the wise men tell us / So if it’s not OK / Then it’s not the end, oh my friends / There’s hope for everyone’

To commemorate the occasion, he’s going on tour to play the album top to bottom (fingers crossed that I can swing a trip to the closes venue – a mere 6 hours away), and he also released a ‘making of’ documentary on YouTube. I share it here in hope that you’ll watch it and come to love Derek as much as I do.

Enjoy.

“What the hell is life apart from moments?”

The only thing the sport gives us are moments. But what the hell is life, Peter, apart from moments?

September 1. Where did the summer go?

It began for me with a pair of massive sports moments that fell on opposite ends of the spectrum – a crushing defeat and a first time championship.

Those moments have remained with me over the past few months. I felt joy whenever I put on my Raptors lid or championship t-shirt, and wondered if it was too soon to don any black and gold in public.

Thankfully, the summer was filled with moments that made me forget about sports. A quiet bench by the lake, picnics on beaches at conservation areas, a visit to my parents’ cabin, a week at church camp with our oldest son, another in Ottawa with two of the boys, fun times at Wonderland, trips and bike rides to the corner store.

raps.PNG

The quote above is another great one from Beartown and delivered by Ramona, the town barkeep. It reminded me of Pete Holmes and his adoption of the mantra “yes, thank you.” This excerpt from a recent GQ article explains what that’s all about:

It’s a mantra that Holmes began to use after he noticed his inability to be present. He’d find himself at a museum or in a garden near his home, and instead of enjoying his surroundings, he’d find himself stressed about making sure he saw the right paintings, or comparing every tree he saw to another he’d seen before. He calls this “running the program:” going into the oh-so-human mode of judging, evaluating, or interpreting what you’re seeing—instead of just experiencing it as it is.

Saying “yes, thank you” is Holmes’ way of being grateful for things exactly as they are, something he learned, at least in part, from Ram Dass, an important teacher of his. And as you find out in his book—a spiritual manifesto disguised as a very funny memoir—this was particularly important for a man who, still in his twenties, got divorced, began to question the Christian faith within which he was raised, and had something of an existential crisis.

Those huge shake-ups caused a lot of pain, obviously, but they also helped him understand that you don’t just say “yes, thank you” to the trees and white roses. You have to say yes to the challenges, too. That’s how you make friends with the constant, inescapable changes that define human life.

What the hell is life apart from all the moments, both good and bad? Nothing.

Bruins lose, Raptors win: “yes, thank you.”

One summer day with my kids is bright and full of sunshine and laughter, another is replete with challenges and doubts about my abilities as a parent: “yes, thank you.”

Seasons come, seasons go: “yes, thank you.”

Moments are all we have. Embrace each one. Good and bad.