Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lessons from Paul in divine discontentment

Someone asked me apropos James 2 and 4 about when it was right for Christians to agitate for change when Paul says that we should be content with the way things are. It was part of a broader discussion about those areas where people think James and Paul are at odds on some pretty fundamental issues of the faith.

It's a serious question, though I think one that gets a bit overblown, so I've been pondering it over the past day or so and here's what I think.

When Paul says he was content and had learned to be content (Philippians 4:11), he did not mean that nothing bothered him or that he put up with what ever came his way or that he didn't think there was a lot wrong with the world that the followers of Jesus should be concerned about putting right, but simply that his personal economic circumstances did not determine how he responded to or felt about things.

He was clearly discontented about many things: that Christ had not yet been formed in his Galatian converts (Galatians 4:19); that those who followed Jesus were failing to share what they had with the poor (1 Corinthians 11:17ff; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15); he wanted to see justice done between Philemon and Onesimus, being discontented with the current situation between them; he was concerned that the Thessalonians didn’t succumb to the lure of being clients but worked to have something to share, indicating a level of profound discontentment about current economic relations in the wider society (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; see Bruce Winter ‘From secular clients to Christian Benefactors’ in his Seek the Welfare of the City [Eerdmans 1994]).

There were a whole range of things that grieved Paul, made him angry at their injustice, that he was definitely not content about and not prepared to learn to be content about.

Indeed, he was only prepared to learn to be content about his own personal circumstances. At the start of Philippians he spoke about his imprisonment being not what he’d have chosen, but still working out for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. And at the end, in relation to their gift, he spoke about having learned to be content about his own personal economic circumstances – whether he had a lot or a little didn’t make him view the world any differently.

But in all sorts of other areas, he seethed with a divinely-inspired discontent at the way the world was and campaigned and agitated to see it change, working mainly through to creating communities which embodied the values of Jesus’ reign, but not afraid to comment on how those values challenged the prevailing ethos of the world around them. And he would have said a loud and enthusiastic 'amen' to how James urges his readers to live.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas travels

Back from Devon. It only took five hours - though it rained all the way. We had a fabulous break - lots of good food, lovely walks, great conversations, though sadly no surfing....

We bought a painting - it's for Linda's birthday in February really, but we'll probably hang it before then. It's a glorious small study of a blue cloth that changes shade and texture in different lights and from different angles.

Lots of writing to do this week as well as getting ready for Sunday (hopes and dreams for the coming year).

After hearing someone in the church I went to on Christmas morning wish Jesus a happy birthday - almost breaking into song in the process - I was so heartened by Michael Gorman's post that pointed out that Christmas is not Jesus' birthday, but the time we celebrate the incarnation of the Second person of the Trinity. It was a good to read a bit of sensible theology over the festive season.

In the post he says: 'Singing Happy Birthday to Jesus would not seem to engender devotion to the One we are called to follow so fully that it might lead to death—yet the Church remembers Stephen, the first martyr, on December 26, the day after Christmas. Singing Happy Birthday to Jesus reflects an understanding of Jesus as a cute little baby or little boy who could cause no trouble and do no harm. But that is not what Herod thought, so the Church remembers his slaughter of the innocents on December 28. In other words, the shadow of the cross is present in the Scriptural Christmas narrative, and in the Church’s way of framing its celebration, but it is absent from the “Happy Birthday, Jesus” mindset.'

Pretty much everything he's been posting through Advent has been top notch, so check him out here (you'll need to scroll down for the birthday post).

With all the hype that attended Douglas Campbell's big book on Paul, it's as well to remember that Gorman published a much briefer but immensely rich Pauline theology this year. Inhabiting the Cruciform God is one of my books of the year (though I've not quite finished it yet).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas in Kingsbridge

We've decamped to Devon for Christmas, spending it with good friends.

Just back from a wonderful walk across Bantham beach - didn't go in the water today! - and up over the headland before retiring to the Sloop for a coffee. Sheer bliss.

Spent five hours on the M4 yesterday which wasn't so blissful. It was bumper to bumper and we rarely got above 30mph. And then the traffic cleared as soon as we hit the M5 at around 6pm, so our usual 4 hour journey took nearer to nine hours.

But it's worth it for the company and scenery!

Listened to Boo Hewerdine in the car who kept me feeling mellow. I was reminded just how good a songwriter he is.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A good Christmas read

If you're still looking for some Christmas reading, let me recommend Thomas Friedman's new paperback, Hot, Flat & Crowded: Why the world needs a green revolution - and we can renew our global future (Penguin 2010).

Friedman is a New York Times columnist who for the past decade has offered some of the best thinking and commentary on globalisation. His book The Lexus and the Olive Tree is still the best introduction to the new world order that emerged after the fall of the Berlin wall but before the World Trade Centre attacks of 2001. A lot of his analysis still holds true, however.

Friedman points out that this emerging world is bordered by two interesting and memorable dates - 11/9 was when the Berlin Wall came down (that is 9 November 1989); 9/11 was when those infamous attacks happened (that is 11 September 2001).

Now he turns his penetrating gaze on how a globalised world needs to get to grips with climate change. The book came out before the debacle in Copenhagen, so it's message is even more urgent now than it was just a couple of months ago when the paperback came out.

Because a year elapsed between the hardback and paperback versions of the book, a year in which the financial meltdown played out before an open-mouthed electorate, Friedman rewrote the first section. These 60 pages offer some of the best, most prescient analysis of the credit crunch against the backdrop of the increasingly globalised world in which banking and hedge funds are a key lubricant. And he makes intriguing and convincing connections between the three crises that threaten a perfect storm of problems for the world - financial meltdown, population growth and climate change.

So I heartily recommend this narrative full of great anecdotes, interviews, stories and analysis as a welcome distraction from all that theology - as well as a wake up call to Christians to get informed and get active in this area.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Reflecting on our carol service experience

We had a good day of carol services yesterday.

It kicked off with the biggest turn out at Messy Church in its year-long history - and this despite the atrocious conditions under foot. I didn't count but there could well have 70 people at the peak.

Two things stand out. The first is that there were a number of families who've not been before and the second is that a number of families stayed on for the all-age carol service. So we're making new friends and hopefully helping them explore the meaning of the Christian faith for families today.

Then at teatime we had a pretty full and very traditional carols by candlelight. This continues to be an event that attracts a good number of people who don't usually attend church. I lost count of the number of people I shook hands with who joked that they were once a year regulars.

The music was great, the service flowed sweetly with a reasonable number of people involved in one way or another and a number of people commented on how helpful and challenging the sermon was.

But I guess what stands out for me is the thought that this service above anything else we do is worship as entertainment. Now don't me get me wrong. This doesn't mean that the service is not worth doing. Lots of people, church goers and non-church goers alike, find much that is beneficial for them in it. But I wonder if there's a danger that it is just another feature of the traditional Bromley Christmas, up there with the office party, sherry and mince pies with neighbours, last minute shopping, menu planning to suit the tastes of everyone sharing all the meals that will be cooked over the festive season, etc.

My feeling is that the Advent Conspiracy has helped a number of us to think about how we celebrate Christmas this year in terms of what we buy, who we invite to parties and why. But I think we've a way to go.

So - and if this isn't a contradiction - I do feel that carols by candlelight is really good, positive and worthwhile but perhaps it does just allow people to come and do right by God at this one time of the year when the Christian story still resonates with a broad cross-section of the population, so that they don't need to engage with God at any other time of the year.

Maybe this contradiction is at the heart of all the public worship activities we do as a church but it's just thrown into particularly sharp relief at Christmas.

So, a question for next year is whether we can help everyone at our carol services to see the connection between this story and the celebration of it they gladly come at Christmas and their everyday, ordinary, January to November working and domestic lives.

Answers on a post card...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Planning for next year

One thing I tend to do at this time of year is plan the teaching programme for the next session in church. I'm a bit late this year for all sort of reasons, not the least of which has been the trouble I've had writing that has tended to slow everything else down.

In the evenings from January to March we'll be using Nehemiah to ask some questions about what it means to be a missional people.

I have to confess that I find Nehemiah difficult. One reason for this is that I'm fed up of books and conference sessions on leadership telling me that he is the model leader! I'm sure the book that bears his name must have more to tell me than how I exercise leadership - otherwise those who read it who aren't leaders can't be getting a whole lot from it!

The other reason is that he comes across as an insufferable chauvinist, precursor of the Pharisees that Jesus struggled with during his ministry which tends to make the text that bears his name somewhat uncongenial.

However, I've been looking for a handle that will let me into seeing Nehemiah in a fresh way and I think I found one with Stuart Murray Williams' brief comments on this text at the end of his still excellent book on the city and some sermons by Mark Driscoll, who explored Nehemiah as the builder of a city within the city and used the book to help his church in Seattle explore their calling to embody the gospel where they are.

I'm hoping that we'll be able to do the same for us. So we'll be exploring aspects of being a missional people where we are as we read the book together, things like being a people who pray, plan and prepare, who recognise that everyone has a role but not everyone does the same amount of work, who have a passion for economic justice, who seek to create space for those not in our group to explore the meaning of life, who recognise the importance of covenant relationships and constantly retelling the founding stories of the community, and so on.

I think all this - and more - is in Nehemiah, so it'll be interesting to see whether we're able to extract in in such a way that helps to shape our identity as a missional people in our city in the second decade of the third millennium after Christ.

So, this is Christmas...

So far, Christmas has not been quite as frantic as previous years, though our grand daughter arrived on Wednesday afternoon and I've had lots of lovely distractions to deal with since then - and my productivity has plummeted! So, this might just be a state of mind!

In common with a lot of churches, we'll be busy this weekend. We have three carol services on Sunday plus an hour spent on the forecourt serving mulled wine, mince pies, tea and coffee to passers-by (it'll be interesting to see if the current lovely weather has any impact on the numbers)

We're also going to Starbucks on Monday evening to sing carols and other Christmas favourites at six to bring a little cheer to last-minute, late evening shoppers.

I've been enjoying more over-looked music - Florence and the Machine and Paloma Faith. Both their records are very listenable. And I've taken delivery of Alan Roxburgh's new book Introducing the Missional Church which I shall take away on my Christmas break to Devon. It looks pretty good.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Moments of musical wonder

Geoff over at wonder and wondering has tagged me with a music meme. The point, he says, is to write about moments when music just made you stand still in wonder, but not to write about your all-time-favourite music.

This is really difficult. I can think of tunes that make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up every time I hear them - Miles Davis' So What, Santana's Every Step of the Way, Vaughan Williams' Lark Ascending

I remember first hearing Jimi Hendrix's take on All Along the Watchtower (which I already knew from Dylan's John Wesley Harding album). I was learning to pay the guitar at the time so I must have been about 15/16 and I was speechless with wonder at the sound he drew out of a Telecaster. The falling chords in the instrumental section took my breath away.

I remember seeing and hearing the Smiths on Top of the Pops performing This Charming Man, Morrissey with Gladioli in his back pocket and wearing a hearing aid (it was the days before foldback was played through headsets). I was captivated. He was a thing of wonder! But the song reached in and caressed some deep part of my soul. I was married by then but listening, I felt like the awkward teenager I had been and yet I felt I was OK to have been it because here was this guy singing my feelings on top of the pops.

For me it has always been the combination of words and music that creates wonder. yes, great guitar playing will always send a tingle down my spine. But it's the way a lyric rising and falls within a sequence of chords that causes me to stop and wonder.

Very early on Leonard Cohen did it in the Stranger song. Over the simple picked acoustic, Cohen's mellifluous vocal sang:

And then sweeping up the jokers that he left behind
you find he did not leave you very much not even laughter
Like any dealer he was watching for the card
that is so high and wild
he'll never need to deal another
He was just some Joseph looking for a manger
He was just some Joseph looking for a manger.

and the killer line

O you've seen that man before
his golden arm dispatching cards
but now it's rusted from the elbow to the finger

Joni Mitchell has the same effect on so many of the songs from her classic 70s period (Court and Spark to Don Juan's restless Daughter). The way her vocal rises through the uncertain love song, the same situation to the lines

Still I send up my prayer
wondering where it had to go
with heaven full of astronauts
and the Lord on death row
while the millions of his lost and lonely ones
call out and clamour to be found
caught in their struggle for higher positions
and their search for love that sticks around

I'm sent into all kinds of wonder every time I hear that tune.

I could go on. I guess the most recent music that has done this for me is Elbow. Each of their four albums have been little wonders. But One Day like This off Seldom Seen Kid still makes me stop still with a hush over my spirit. The simple vocal over the rising orchestra and choir

Well anyway, it's looking like a beautiful day,
so throw those curtains wide
one day like this a year
would see me right.

On the live from Abbey Road DVD where Guy Garvey and the gang are performing this with the BBC Concert Orchestra and the choir Chantage, there's a woman in the choir who is so utterly transported by what she's singing that she looks like I feel every time I hear it. It's a moment of sheer bliss and wonder when the song reaches its climax.

Not sure if this is what you wanted, Geoff....

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Seeing the end of the apocalypse

I've just finished the notes for our final session on the apocalypse. It's been great fun doing this even though I've felt at times that I've drowning in john's imagery.

But one thing I have come away more than ever firmly convinced of is that John's letter to these scattered urban communities across the western end of Asia minor is one of the most potent missional texts in the New Testament.

We get so caught up in the imagery, convinced that John is writing to confirm our particular system of theology and narrow conception of the New Jerusalem as a life raft for people like me, that we miss the central unveiling of God's purpose: that through his people the nations of the world will be brought into God's Kingdom and bring their glory and wealth into his city.

This is the end (that is goal) of John's apocalypse and if that's not missional, I'm not sure what is.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Really good TV

Just watched The Secret Life of Cranes on More 4. A film about the people who sit above our cities in tower cranes, who shift heavy materials on building sites; about what they see and how they feel about it.

It was a stunning 40 minutes of visual treats accompanied by quirky observation. If you didn't see it, check it out on 4OD.

Oh, and though the song didn't appear in the film, it was apparently inspired by the Elbow Song The Loneliness of the Tower Crane Driver, but showed such guys as anything but lonely - though they spend long days alone. They were all surprisingly articulate, at times almost poetic.

My phone keeps time perfectly

Well, it seems that Nokia have delivered me an early Christmas present by giving me a software upgrade for my lovely E63 which means that I don't need to keep correcting the date.

Up until last Friday, my phone skipped two days every day which meant that everyday I had to reset the date which was a little tiresome. Now I don't have to, which is lovely. So thank you Nokia and 3.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Yet another late entry

Another late entry into the festive ten - which now has thirteen entrants! - is the wonderful Animal Collective.

I blogged about Merriweather Post Pavilion when I bought it but that was back in the early Spring and as ever with an album bought early in the year, it gets displaced from the playlist by subsequent purchases.

Flicking through my iPod this morning, I alighted upon it and remembered how good it was. Quirky pop, propelled on waves of sound, it's weird and lovely. And I'm sorry I forgot about when compiling my original list.

Conspiring to make Advent meaningful

We're two weeks into the Advent Conspiracy and it's beginning to raise some profound issues for people - which was the intention. As ever when issues are raised, there's a danger that we get side-tracked into questions that have no simple answers, leading to the temptation is to say that there's nothing to be done.

So, for example, when I raised the question last week that how we spend our money shows where our hearts are, that the truth of our worship is seen in our till receipts, I got a number of questions asking about what I felt this meant for the nature of advanced industrial capitalism. Fascinating though such conversations would inevitably be, they can be a way of avoiding the more direct question of what we'll actually spend in the run up to Christmas.

Last night we pursued this topic looking at what Paul says to the Corinthians about the use of any surplus they have. 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 is the beginning of Paul's appeal to the church to join in his collection for the saints in Jerusalem, suffering acutely from the effects of famine and recession.

The principle that Paul works up to is equality, used twice in v14. It seems that Paul here states a key principle of how economic relationships should be organised among God's people. Justin Meggitt argues that this verse is one a key one in understanding the mutualism that was a hallmark of early Christian thinking about the use of money.

So what does it have to do with Christmas? simply this. Paul doesn't come out with the principle immediately. Instead he talks about the grace of God. We will never grasp how God expects us to use money until we are seized and overwhelmed by God's grace. This is why he talks about the experience of the Macedonians - those believers in Thessalonica and Philippi - being gripped by God's grace in such a way that they wanted to ensure that their surplus was used to bring grace to others.

It's not only the Macedonians who are an example here. The Messiah, Jesus himself, is too. He operated out of a grace that meant that though he was rich, he chose to become poor in order that we might be enriched (v9). However we understand this key Christmas text in terms of salvation and forgiveness, new life and rescue, it's context demands that we see it in economic terms as well. Jesus is another example of mutualism in operation. Perhaps the Macedonians had grasped this through what Paul wrote to them in Philippians 2:5-11, 3:7-16.

And so grace should be directing our planning in two areas. The first is purchasing. What do we buy? How do we spend to show our love for friends and family and our commitment to justice and equality across the world? And what's grace got to do with it? And the second is partying. Who do we celebrate with at Christmas? The temptation is to spend money celebrating with friends and family. But the first Christmas was full of celebration with strangers, people invited to share the joy of the birth of Jesus who were unknown to his immediate family.

When I'd preached this at our earlier service yesterday afternoon, I had a conversation with a woman who hates Christmas because she doesn't have anyone to celebrate with and often spends it on her own. Indeed sometimes she prefers that because it's not enough to just invite people to share with us, we also have to think about how we plan our celebration. This woman said that she'd been invited to join a family at Christmas and she felt like a gooseberry, not knowing the in-jokes or family history that dominated the conversation.

There's no easy answer to any of this. I guess a starting point is that we need to pray for an overwhelming experience of grace that will help us to think practically about we use our disposable income to show the reality of Christmas.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Laughing with God

There's a lovely Regina Spektor video here.

You could also check out her charming, witty and thought-provoking song Laughing With

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one's laughing at God
when they're starving or freezing or so very poor

No one laughs at God when the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one's laughing at God when it's gotten real late
and their kid's not back from that party yet

No one laughs at God when their airplane starts to uncontrollably shake
No one's laughing at God when they see the one they love hand in hand with someone else and they hope that they're mistaken
No one laughs at God when the cops knock on their door and they say "We've got some bad new, sir,"
No one's laughing at God when there's a famine, fire or flood

But God can be funny
At a cocktail party while listening to a good God-themed joke
Or when the crazies say he hates us and they get so red in the head
you think that they're about to choke

God can be funny
When told he'll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie
Who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus

God can be so hilarious

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one's laughing at God when they've lost all they got
and they don't know what for

No one laughs at God on the day they realize that the last sight they'll ever see is a pair of hateful eyes
No one's laughing at God when they're saying their goodbyes

But God can be funny ...

No one's laughing at God
No one's laughing at God
No one's laughing at God
We're all laughing with God

Lots to ponder there - especially the last line...

Late entries in the festive ten

Doesn't this always happen? Just as you've decided on your festive ten along come two releases that compete for top slot.

the first I was expecting. it's the five track EP by the wonderful Smoke Fairies - two girls from Sussex whose English folk sound is filtered through Nashville and the Mississippi Delta - Frozen Heart. Just five tracks (download only as far as I can tell) but each one beautifully played with shimmering vocals. Well worth checking out at less that £3.50.

The other came via the Word's best music of the decade free CD. It's the Decemberists' The Hazards of Love. Shock horror, it's a concept album or at least a suite of songs about a love affair with lots of finely honed musing on the nature of love. The band boasts one of the best rhythm sections I've heard in a good while - languid bass (both upright and electric) with inventive brushed and sticked percussion that keeps the time signatures beautifully fluid.

Song writer, Colin Meloy, is full of pastoral lyricism and wonderful tunes. With vocals shared by him and - I assume - keyboardist Jenny Conlee, this is a sweet confection indeed, if an album boasting a storming murder ballad (The Rake's Song) and such foreboding about the doom as well as the ecstasy of love, can be called a confection. Available everywhere for a song! Check it out.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

My festive ten

This is, of course, misnamed. It’s not a collection of my favourite Christmas songs but the ten best listens of the year, released this year.

That last criterion has left me a bit short of material this year because I’ve not actually bought as many CDs as in previous years and some of them are not 2009 vintage.

One of the best purchases of the year is Lamb’s Best Kept Secrets: the best of Lamb 1996-2204. But it’s four years old so doesn’t count. It's British drum n' bass at its best. i can't understand why they are not huge.

I also don’t think I can count the 2009 remix of King Crimson’s In the Court of the Crimson King. I only bought it because I haven’t got the album on CD in any of its remixes, though I confess I cannot tell the difference between the latest twiddle of the knobs and one done in 2004 that accompanies the CD I bought. It remains seminal and wonderful, however.

But there is a live album in my selection, recorded in London in 2008 and containing material stretching back to the mid-60s. But it only came out this year.

So here they are in alphabetical order (with a little note on why I love them)

Athlete Black Swan. This album is so much better than the critics said it was. It contains a couple of Joel Pott’s best songs to date – namely, Black Sawn Song and Rubik’s Cube – and is altogether lovely.

Leonard Cohen Live in London. This is a recording of his storming gig at the O2 last year which I wish I’d been at. It is simply one of the most beautiful and moving things I’ve ever listened to. I went to sleep with it filling my ears when I was on my own in Sri Lanka this summer. Every song is brilliant. The playing is tight and inventive. It demonstrates Cohen to be not only a survivor but one of the top song writers of his generation.

Editors In this Light and on This Evening. Again, an album a bit savaged by the critics. But I reckon it’s their best to date. It’s full of angular synthesisers. At times you get the impression it was precision engineered on a lathe. But the lyrical content is full of elliptical emotion. The stand out tracks are Bricks and Mortar, the Boxer and the visceral Eat Raw Meat=Blood Drool, but there isn’t a duff song in the collection

Fever Ray. I discovered this self-titled debut via a free download of a live version of most of it via the Guardian (so, thanks for that…). Fever Ray is Karin Dreijer Andersson, one half of Swedish band, the Knife. With lines like ‘when I grow up/I want to be a forrester/run through the moss in high heels’ and ‘accompany me by the kitchen sink/we talk about love, we talk about dishwasher tablets, illness/and we dream about heaven’ what’s not to like? It’s set to a wash of rubbery percussion and growling electronica and is as great in the car as it is on the iPod.

PJ Harvey & John Parish A Woman A Man Walked by. Polly Jean is incapable of producing a dull track and with her long time on/off collaborator, Parish, she serves up a collection of reflections on love and life that are by turns gossamer light and gut-wrenchingly heavy. It’s not her best work, but it still knocks most other artists’ output into a cocked hat.

Imogen Heap Eclipse. Great tunes, interesting lyrics, neat arrangements. Like a number of others in the list, it’s full of washy synths and layered vocals. There’s a depth to the song writing lacking from some of her contemporaries. It’s a delightful confection.

Jars of Clay The Long Fall back to Earth. Liquid, on their eponymous debut album, remains one of my favourite songs. But some of their output since has been a tad bland. Not this, however. Coming hard on the heels of the return to form Good Monsters, this album is even better. Great songs, great playing and its lyrically more inventive and poignant than anything else they’ve done. Stand out tracks are Weapons, Headphones and Hero. Christian music as it should be.

Moby Wait for me. What’s not to like – Moby’s back in his bedroom, playing pretty much anything and everything, inviting a few friends to do guest vocals? It’s his best collection since Everything is Wrong in my opinion. Pale Horses, Study War, Walk with Me and Hope is Gone are the stand-out tracks on an album of shimmery, laid-back loveliness.

Timariwen Imidiwan: Companions. Wafting in from the desert, the Taureg tribesmen’s third album is their strongest and catchiest to date. Driven along by the guitar and guttural vocals of Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, who writes everything, this is probably like nothing you’ve ever heard before. And don’t worry that you won’t understand a word of it, just dance along.

U2 No line on the Horizon. Yeah, I know it’s a bit predictable and I know we all love to hate Bono. But I reckon that this is the Irish fab four’s best album to date - better even than Achtung Baby. Full of inventiveness and instrumental dexterity (as you’d expect), it’s also got some great songs on it. Moment of Surrender, White as Snow and Cedars of Lebanon are the stand outs for me. But I love it all.

If I had to pick a best album of 2009 from this lot, I’d be hard pressed to choose between Leonard Cohen and Fever Ray but would probably tip my hat to the former just because of the delight he’s brought to my life for 40 years.

It’s great that one of you has already made suggestions of other tracks and albums. Please feel free to comment and tell me what you’re favourite listens have been this year – I still have a Christmas list to compile!