Happy New Year! Here are my film, book and music discoveries of 2016

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img_20170104_100937I like making lists. I thought I would have a look back over the films, books and music I enjoyed in 2016 so here are my top 5 of each:

Books

View my year in books on Goodreads

  1. The Loney – Andrew Michael Hurley – a great gothic novel, creepy and affecting.
  2. Different Class – Joanne Harris – an evocative book¬†about scandal in a boys’ school.
  3. Enders Game – Orson Scott Card – this was recommended to me by a friend ages ago. It’s a great science fiction story – you can see how much it has influenced subsequent books and films.
  4. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn – best thriller I read all year – really worth a read. The film is also a great adaptation – but read the book first!
  5. Conclave – Robert Harris – really enjoyed this detailed look inside the Vatican and a fun story.

Films

  1. Arrival – my film of the year. A long time since I’ve seen such an intelligent film, an alien invasion which is a really clever thought experiment.
  2. The Martian – a good solid science fiction film, very entertaining.
  3. I Daniel Blake – a must watch about the current state of affairs in the UK and what this government is doing to oppress people.
  4. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – I really enjoyed this return to the wizarding universe.
  5. Rogue One – a fab prequel for Star Wars.

Music

I consume music so differently these days. I have a subscription to Spotify – the streaming service – and have enjoyed their weekly discover playlist – which is a list of music that they think I’ll like based on my listening history (old and new tracks). I have also enjoyed buying second hand vinyl to play on my record player. Most of my new discoveries have come from listening to BBC 6 Music in my car. I often use the Shazam app to find out what the track is and this automatically creates a playlist in Spotify for me.

To get an idea of what I’ve been listening to this year, here is my most listened to playlist:

My top 5 songs of 2016 (which are a mixture of vinyl discoveries and others) are:

  1. The Pusher – Steppenwolf (from the Easy Rider soundtrack – sounds amazing on vinyl)
  2. This Year – The Mountain Goats (the refrain ‘I’m going to make it through this year if it kills me’ was very 2016!)
  3. Trouble – Girl Ray (great new band discovery)
  4. Lo, the full final sacrifice – Gerald Finzi (I heard this on Radio 3, a beautiful piece of sacred music)
  5. Heroes – David Bowie (obviously listened to a lot of Bowie this year and I think this is my favourite of his!)

Do you have any recommendations for me for 2017?

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Timelapse – The City Limits

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My thanks to my friend Andy for sharing this on Facebook. A beautiful timelapse video of some cities at night and then the night sky. Great for prayer, meditation on God’s sovereignty…

Here is another one showing mountain scenes that would be good for meditation on God’s creation.

 

Psalm 19

    For the director of music. A psalm of David.

 

  The heavens declare the glory of God;
   the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
   night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
   no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
   their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
  It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
   like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
   and makes its circuit to the other;
   nothing is deprived of its warmth.

 

  The law of the LORD is perfect,
   refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
   making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
   giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
   giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
   enduring forever.
The decrees of the LORD are firm,
   and all of them are righteous.

 

  They are more precious than gold,
   than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
   than honey from the honeycomb.
By them your servant is warned;
   in keeping them there is great reward.
But who can discern their own errors?
   Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
   may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
   innocent of great transgression.

 

  May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
   be pleasing in your sight,
   LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

(Psalm 19, New International Version, ©2011)

Portrait of Christ by Jeremy Cowart

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OK, this doesn’t quite fit the ‘rules’ of this site as it’s not technically drawing from secular culture. However, this is my blog and so I can put what I want on it! I saw this on Don Miller’s blog and thought it was great. 

 

Reminded me of the verse in Matthew’s Gospel:

 

    “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40, New International Version, ©2011)

 

Brilliant animation of a portrait of Christ:

 

 

Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince

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Some people in the church won’t thank me for drawing from the Harry Potter series for a Christian illustration. However, there are reflections of the gospel to be found, in my opinion, throughout the books (and the films).

Reading this week about Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane and also what Jesus said about the ‘cup’ he had to drink – some times known as the ‘cup of wrath’, I was reminded of this scene in Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince.

 

    “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”

 

   “We can,” they answered.

(Matthew 20:22, New International Version, ©2011)

 

And also, the show trial that Jesus undergoes at the house of Caiaphas the High Priest put me in mind of Harry’s trial in this film, where he is accused of treason for actually trying to save a life:

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The story of the weeping camel

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Some time ago I saw the film The Story of the Weeping Camel and it had a profound affect on me. This clip is one of the most powerful scenes in the film and makes for a great meditation. Below is an outline of a meditation I used in a service once. Feel free to use this or adapt it!

Meditation

I am going to show you a clip from a film called ‘The story of the weeping camel’. It’s a documentary film about a small nomadic tribe in Mongolia. Just before you watch it, I will just give you a little background. The large brown camel in the clip is a mother camel. At the beginning of the film, she gives birth to a baby white camel. The birth is very difficult and takes about two days. As a result, the mother rejects the calf. The tribespeople try and feed the baby camel themselves but realise after a short while that without the care of its mother, it will die. Each and every camel is precious to this family. So to remedy the situation, the father sends his two small sons to ride to the nearest village to call for a musician. We join the film as the musician arrives to heal the mother camel.

Watch this film as a parable.

Allow God to speak to you through it.

You might imagine yourself as the mother camel, kicking against the world.

You might imagine yourself as the baby camel, needing to be loved and cared for.

You might imagine yourself as the woman or the musician, singing the song that brings healing.

Or you might just be one of the family, watching something miraculous happen.

Before you press ‘play’, ask God to speak to you as you watch

This is a video of the entire documentary, you will need to move to 1.11 hrs into the film, slide the marker up to that point and then press play.

Allow yourself to reflect on what God has said to you in the quiet.

Scripture says in Zephaniah 3:17:

The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.

Father, thank you for your care for us.

Thank you for the song of healing you sing over us and our world.

Help us to receive your love.

Amen.

 

A Bug’s Life

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Jesus said ‘I am the light of the world’ (John 8:12).

He also said ‘you are the light of the world’ (Matthew 5:14).

Light has many qualities. This short clip from the Disney Pixar film, A Bug’s Life, illustrates one of these qualities. A good clip to show at a family service or Sunday School/Holiday Club.