It’s been another exciting year, and we want to thank you all for reading and, if applicable, posting comments on our blog. Once again, we would like to close out the year with some summary remarks about good and bad stuff related to film, music, books, sports, food, and family.

Film Experiences:

Jim: It was such a busy year that I didn’t see as many films as I normally do. But I really liked Dr. Strange—an interesting interface between Western science and Eastern mystical concepts, though it would have been better with more character development and less explosive action and eye-dazzling CGI. I also enjoyed Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which so deftly weaved in connections to the main plotline of the Star Wars films. And Zootopia was a lot of fun—I still go back and watch that scene with the sloths at the DMV. Hilarious. But by far my favorite of the year was Hacksaw Ridge, which manages to wrestle with a serious moral dilemma, powerfully portray self-sacrificial love, and provide a compelling romantic love story.

Amy: I hate to be Debbie Downer, but when I went to consider movies I loved this year, I first thought of movies that disappointed rather than delighted. Kung Fu Panda 3 was a disastrous but memorable night out with the kids, which started with a soggy drive to the theater and ended with a misleading Yelp review of the local Chinese restaurant. Another big disappointment was Star Trek Beyond. I went to see this one by myself in the theater while Maggie and a friend saw Secret Life of Pets. Though I have loved the previous installments of the recent Star Trek series, I am pretty sure I would have enjoyed Secret Life more . . . if the girls would have allowed me to sit in the same theater as them. I saw Magnificent Seven with Bailey and friend who did let me sit with them, maybe because I bought the popcorn, and was thoroughly entertained. Hacksaw Ridge was probably the most powerful movie I saw this year, despite a few flawed and uneven performances, however my favorite experience this year was watching various Jane Austin and Elizabeth Gaskill adaptations (Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Wives and Daughters to a name a few) with Maggie and Andrew. It was like watching them all for the first time and I can’t wait to rediscover more of these beloved period pieces with them.

Jim’s Best Musical Experiences of the Year: My love for Cage the Elephant continued to grow with their latest album Tell Me I’m Pretty, produced by Black Keys front man Dan Auerbach. The band’s sound is less densely textured now, whether due to the departure of guitarist Lincoln Parish or Auerbach’s production. In any case, its still great CTE music. Manchester Orchestra’s Hope was another highlight for me. The album is a more mellow reworking of the songs on their Cope album from the previous year. It is a fascinating demonstration of how much difference musical arrangements and production makes. I also finally picked up the Raconteurs’ Consolers of the Lonely. Another superb record from the ever-expanding Jack White catalogue. I believe he is the greatest rock music talent of our time. The man is a bona fide quadruple threat (singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer). Other artists I discovered this year—in some cases thanks to my oldest sons, who have become quite the music connoisseurs—include Cloud Cult, Portugal the Man, the Gorillaz, and the incredible Stromae. But the very best musical experience of the year was seeing Bob Dylan in concert in Indianapolis with my daughter Maggie, who is the only real Dylan fan among our kids. As we sat there at the show, she must have said to me at least ten times, “Dad, I can’t believe that’s really him.”

Amy’s Best Food Experiences of the Year: It is sad to say that the more confident I get in my own cooking, the less I enjoy eating out. In fact, one of my highlights food-wise this year would be catering a wedding with one of my favorite people. I love the process from start to finish, coming up with the menu, calculating portions and getting to spend hours and hours with a friend. What could be sweeter? Watching others, whether it is just my family or hundreds of strangers, enjoy food I made is a thrill. The other culinary highlight for me this year was eating with Jim and Bailey at Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian steakhouse in Indianapolis. The food was amazing, but the company was the best.

Jim’s Favorite Sports Moments of the Year: The Chicago Cubs are World Series champions! After suffering with that team for 33 years (and after the franchise itself had suffered a championship drought for 108 years) it has finally happened. What an absolute thrill to see it happen, with my son Andrew—the only truly dedicated sports fan among our kids. After the game 7 victory, we visited Samuel Morris Hall—one of the male residence halls at Taylor—and went from floor to floor high-fiving and chest bumping fellow Cubs fans until about 2:00 a.m. Later, Andrew told one of his friends, “I’m pretty sure some of those students thought my dad was drunk.” And so I was—drunk on the ecstasy of a world championship. The Cubs are champs! Another championship I should mention was that won by my son Andrew’s little league team, which I coached. Not quite at the same level as the Cubs championship, but still thrilling.

Amy’s Favorite Sports Moments of the Year: The Cubs are champs. Nuff said. A close second? Drafting Andrew’s little league team with a dear friend. As Jim mentioned, the team won the championship and I think we all know who to thank for it.

Jim’s Most Disappointing Sports Moments of the Year: With the Cubs winning the World Series, no sports disappointment can spoil my joy for long. But I must admit that watching the Ohio State Buckeyes defeat my Michigan Wolverines in overtime last month was pretty hard to take. And I confess that as I watched there were moments when my feelings for Ohio State bordered on . . . intense dislike. So I confess that I relished Clemson’s trouncing of the Buckeyes last night. Ah, misery loves company.

Amy’s Most Painful Sports Moment of the Year: Both involved our kids. One was literally painful. Nothing prepares you for that text or phone call telling you that your kid has been seriously injured on the field. So thankful nothing was permanently damaged though I am pretty sure I lost a few hours off my life due to elevated blood pressure. The other was a strange mixture of heartbreak and pride as one of the kids sacrificed his pride for the sake of his team. This experience showed me again that sports can play a significant role in the moral development of my kids, however hard it is to watch.

Good and Bad Reads of the Year:

Jim: I did a lot of reading of early church fathers over the summer, and it was really rich. Clement of Alexandria’s Paedagogus and Stromata are moral-theological treatises that are amazingly relevant today. Likewise, John Cassian’s Institutes and Conferences. I also read Athanasius’ Life of Antony, which is one of the most influential books in Christian history, deservedly so. Among contemporary works, my favorite of the year was Mike Mason’s The Mystery of Marriage, which has become something of a contemporary classic. Chock-full of honest and bracing observations about marriage, the book is also a stylistic masterpiece. Mason calls himself a “purveyor of fine sentences.” And so he is. The only negative reads of the year were a few philosophical articles and one book—Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, which was recommended to me by a colleague. I’m not into pop psychology, and Brown seems to epitomize that.

Amy: This year I didn’t read nearly as much as I wanted to but the upside was I loved just about every book I read. I couldn’t stop quoting The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller. I chuckled along as I read All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot. Cried through Roots by Alex Haley, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs, and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I also read a few of the James Bond books, which are much better than the movies, as well as some Agatha Christie and Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling.

Best 2016 Family Memories:

Amy: The first half of this year, my nephew Josh lived with us which was a treat, especially given the fact that he and my sister’s family have been living overseas for more than a decade. He helped fill the void left by Bailey who was in Bolivia from January to May. Bailey’s first extended time away from home was a bittersweet experience for me. Missed him terribly, but so wonderful to watch him growing up and to see the Lord working in his life. It was humbling to see others influencing and caring for him while I could not. I am tearing up now at the memory of seeing his smiling face as he walked towards us at the airport. This spring and summer we managed a few family hikes during which the majority of the children refrained from cursing the concept of the great outdoors. This was a major victory. Table Rock State Park is a new favorite destination. Moving was a huge undertaking and while I am glad it is behind us, I will treasure memories of working along side Jim and the kids.

Jim: The best and at times more challenging family experience of the year was moving into our new (or, rather, old—built in 1920) house in Upland, Indiana. September was a zany month, but we pulled it off. I especially enjoyed the excursions I had with each of our kids this past year. In March I visited La Paz, Bolivia where Bailey attended Highlands International Academy for the semester. In July I went on a church mission trip to El Salvador with Sam. In August, I took Maggie to the Dylan concert and I took my Andrew to see the Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Did I mention that the Chicago Cubs are World Series champions? Yeah!!!

Best Kids’ Quotes of the Year

As usual, the best quotes from our kids this year come from our poet-comedian-dreamer daughter, Maggie (12) and our observant moral theologian Andrew (10):

  • Maggie: “If I were God the world wouldn’t be nearly so complicated.”
  • Andrew: “Everything that has to do with tomatoes is bad.”
  • Maggie: “In the future this will be the past, and I will be glad.”
  • Andrew: “You can’t turn back time but you don’t need to if you make the right decisions.”
  • Maggie: “There are two things I dislike about life: There is no background music and there are no musical montages.”

New Year’s Resolutions:

Amy: To be more prompt and not use my kids as an excuse for being late more often than I should be. To be a good neighbor and friend and not overthink or analyze my interactions with others. To be more intentional in my thoughts, not allowing them to wander . . . sorry, what was I saying?

Jim:  My primary goals this year are moral-spiritual: to be more meditative and disciplined in controlling my own thoughts. And, with regard to this blog, to do more posts that feature biblical reflections and practical theology. I also resolve to do more praying for our political leaders than complaining about them.

Happy 2017 everyone!

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