What Happened to Our Heroes?

Since I’ve lived away from my hometown for nearly two decades, I’ve taken to checking in to the local paper online. Since I’m too cheap to actually buy a subscription, much of the content is blocked to me. But the one section that isn’t is the Obituaries section.

That might sound morbid but I’m also the guy who took my girlfriend for a walk through a cemetery when she came to visit me in college. Of course, it was in Historic Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, but it still sounds somewhat bleak, right?

I’m at that age where lots of my friends are losing their parents though. While it happened to me ten years ago, I’m watching friends lose parents and others struggle with the aging process that has been quickly or not so quickly taking down their loved ones.

As I keep peeking into the Obituaries section, the other thing that I keep experiencing is the loss of my childhood teachers. The latest loss was my elementary school librarian. This woman exuded positivity. She was so full of life and it’s hard not to smile as I picture her reading stories to us, leading us around the library, and doing all things that librarians do.

It set my brain in motion, thinking about what happens to our childhood heroes. As timeless as the mental snapshots seem that we’ve taken within our heads, they still age. Though they’re ageless in our minds, time marches on and they eventually face the inevitable end that we all must face.

Recently I’ve been listening to “Songs of Surrender” by U2. U2 will always hold a special place in my heart. They were among the first bands that I listened to outside of my parents limited playlist. I remember walking down my street listening to the “War” album by them and thinking that I was all that when I was a mere 12 years old. As “Sunday Bloody Sunday” reverberated through my crappy portable tape player (if you have to ask, you’ll never know), I was walking on air.

My listening of this collection of reimagined U2 songs was combined with my viewing of the Disney+ documentary starring Bono and the Edge and hosted by David Letterman. It evoked some stronger emotions from me than I ever would have imagined. My heart actually ached within my chest as I watched it and I’m still trying to wrap my head around just why. Maybe it was pure nostalgia. Maybe it was the impending significant birthday that’s a short hop away. Maybe it’s my oldest on the brink of getting his license. Maybe it’s just life slapping me in the face, reminding me that it’s not slowing down.

As I watched “A Sort of Homecoming” and looked at David Letterman, it made me sadder. This man who I remembered watching late at night growing up had officially grown old. He was no spring chicken and it was evident from his Santa-like beard that he was all 75 years of his age.

There’s something significant that happens when our heroes get old. At one point, they were invincible. Nothing could touch them. They could do no wrong. But one day, they got old. They no longer looked like they used to look.

When’s the last time you saw one of your heroes? Did they look old to you?

The pressure is on as I realize that I’m now in the position of many of those that I looked up to when I was younger, and I can’t help but ask myself how I’m doing assuming that position. Those are pretty big shoes to fill and I can’t help but wonder how I’m doing just trying to fit into those shoes.


This Isn’t This, It’s That

Sometimes I feel like life would be easier if I could remain ignorant or even just ignore some of what I see. The old adage, “ignorance is bliss” is probably more spot on than most of us would like to admit. We may have even encountered that bliss ourselves, either in those around us or, more convicting, in ourselves.

That bliss, more often, has been looking back at me when I look in a mirror. And in that moment, stepping in front of the mirror, into the light, exposed, I am faced with a choice: do I change or do I simply ignore it.

Sadly, I think many of us step away from the mirror and hope that what we saw there quickly fades from our memory. Others of us make the conscious decision to never step in front of the mirror at all.

I don’t think I’ve ever really had the choice to walk away or never step up to the mirror. At least, not if I want to keep relationships intact and pursue a more healthy lifestyle. There’s something cathartic about confession, as if a giant weight is lifted off of our shoulders. The acknowledgement of inadequacy may be perceived as weakness to some, but to me, it represents freedom.

I’ve had to take some long looks at myself in the mirror over the past few years. I often don’t like what i see there. It isn’t pretty. The mirror shows the flaws. The mirror exposes. But exposure is helpful to name the problem and to help taking steps towards a solution.

One of the things that I’ve seen as I’ve looked in that mirror is anger. It’s not pretty. It has manifested itself differently at different times. It’s controlled enough that it’s nothing more outwardly than a word or remark or exclamation. It’s not been followed by anything physically violent, for which I am grateful.

The other day, I was talking to someone about Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 when he said, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” As we talked, my friend suggested that there may be other things that we might do in our hearts that, although there are no outward consequences, have caused us to be just as guilty as if there had been. In other words, was my inward action causing me to wish for the demise of whoever the target of my anger was? Was my wish of harm to them as bad as having done harm to them?

I’ve realized that the anger that too often has shown itself outwardly isn’t really anger though. Anger isn’t usually the primary emotion, it’s usually another emotion masquerading around as anger. Call it self-preservation or whatever, but as I’ve had to sit in front of that mirror, I’ve seen that the bulk of the time, that anger isn’t anger at all, it’s fear. Since fear seems to weak of an emotion to exhibit, anger takes over and covers over that fear, pretending it’s something that it’s not.

That’s a hard admission to come by. I’m not always a huge fan of confession, regardless of how cathartic it might be. Confession exposes, but unless something is exposed, it can’t be healed. Unless we submit ourselves to the scan, we’ll never know what’s lurking beneath the surface.

God’s done a lot of work in me, he isn’t done yet. Not by a long shot. And so I continue to stand before that mirror. When he stands there with me, he points things out, not for the purpose of humility or shame, but for the purpose of health and wholeness. I imagine Jesus standing there at the mirror with me, his hand on my shoulder, compassion in his eyes, gently pointing his finger towards those spots that need work, that need healing. His intention is health and wholeness as well, and he’s the only one who can bring it.

Stay Humble

Two times over the last week, I’ve had people reach out to me to tell me that they had been privy to some really nice things being said about the church that I lead. Both of the times that those things had been spoken, I was nowhere around or within earshot. I think that’s a really good thing.

I jokingly referred to the fact that I wasn’t there to hear these praises in person as a means by which God was keeping me humble. As much as I might try desperately not to make it about me and all that I do, I am human and my tendency seems to be towards selfishness and self-promotion if I’m not careful. Our culture pushes us towards this kind of approach anyway, swimming against the tide of that is a challenge.

The great C.S. Lewis wrote that the humble man, “will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.” So, I guess I can cross “humility” off of my list of character traits. Since I’m thinking of it, I guess I just forfeited my opportunity to be humble.

In all seriousness, as I inch ever closer to what I call “the back 9” of my life, I’m finding myself being much more cautious about those I choose to associate with and keep around me. There are people that we have to have around us and then there are those we choose to have around us. I much prefer the choice, it’s much healthier for me.

Moving towards humility isn’t something that can be done alone. Finding humble friends is a necessary step. The Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 2 have become somewhat of a vision statement for me as well as I think about the humility of Christ, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

The Greek word that Paul uses in that passage means to bring low, to lower yourself. It’s a lesson that I continue to learn, that humility doesn’t involve me reaching down from above, it involves me stepping down and getting low. That’s what Jesus did, he left his privilege to embrace something less significant for a purpose. He emptied himself, as some translations render it. Even though he had the position, he momentarily stepped down from that position. 

If I’m honest, that’s a hard pill to swallow. I want what I want, when I want it. I’ve worked hard for what I have, so why should I give it up? But that’s not really the right question. The right question might be why not give it up?

Based on what Lewis said and what Paul wrote, I wonder if those who are truly humble really think that they are humble at all. My guess is that they probably don’t.

So my prayer that God keeps me humble will most likely result in me continuing to encounter situations where good things might be said about me when I’m not present. The other part of humility, at least from the Christian perspective, is that if I am within earshot, I don’t point to myself but to the One who has given me the desire, given me the strengths, given me the capacity, given me all that I need to accomplish what he’s called me to. After all, it shouldn’t be about me making anything of myself but about me making more of Jesus.

I guess it goes back to what John the Baptist said of Jesus, “I must decrease and he must increase.” I guess I’ll know that I’m beginning to get it when that isn’t simply a phrase I quote, but a value that I live by. Then, maybe, I’ll be starting to understand true humility.

God As Accessory

When I was in college, I got a part-time job at the Gap. The clothing discount was a plus. I enjoyed the people I worked with and also realized that I probably didn’t have a future in retail. I’m not always very tolerant of ornery people.

I think that the old Saturday Night Live sketch about the Gap with David Spade and others used to poke fun at how the workers there used to try to accessorize. I remember well the push from managers to encourage shoppers with accessories that we offered. Belts, hats, and other things. Accessories were always something to add on, never the focus. There were the main elements of the outfit and then whatever we threw on at the end.

Lately I’ve been thinking about accessories and the fact that so much of our culture within the Church kind of treats God as an accessory. He’s an add on. He isn’t the main thing.

We like to make our plans, put together the outfit, and then throw him on like a halt or a belt or something else. He’s not really part of the main outfit. While he might tie everything together, for many of us, if he weren’t there, the outfit wouldn’t suffer, at least not in our eyes.

I think this is the reason why following Christ doesn’t seem compelling to people. When God is simply an accessory, you can take or leave him. We’ll only add that accessory if it looks good, if it’s the right price, or if everyone else seems to be wearing it. Otherwise, it’s expendable.

I’m pretty sure the Apostle Paul didn’t treat God like an accessory. He wouldn’t have been willing to suffer the way that he did if God was just an accessory. Prison. Beatings. Persecution. Would we be willing to suffer all that for something that was expendable?

The clothing analogy breaks down when we carry it too far, just like most analogies do, but I think you get my point. Instead of being an add-on, what changes when God becomes the main thing? How do we live differently when that’s the case? What happens when our first thoughts are of God rather than just leaving him as an afterthought?

When God moves from afterthought to first thought, we become secondary. Our focus is less on ourselves and more on him. Our desires aren’t for what we want, but for what he wants. Jesus did say that we should take up our cross and follow him, that cross wasn’t exactly an accessory, although we have made it just that.

This is not an easy shift. John the Baptist understood that. It was a lessening of himself and an increase of Jesus. I was recently reminded that humility isn’t thinking less of yourself but actually thinking about yourself less. That’s what John modeled. That’s what Jesus modeled. That’s not exactly what we see around us.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown comfortable in the accessories I like. It’s been relegated to mostly hats. On the rare occasion that I actually dress up, I enjoy adding bow ties to the mix. I’m reminded of Paul’s words to the church in Rome, “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”

How am I clothing myself with Christ today? Not accessorizing, but making him the complete outfit.

The End Result

At least once a year, things that I am listening to, watching, and reading all seem to come together in some divine way to have a common theme that not only overlaps but actually threads through, pulling the seemingly unconnected pieces together, showing just how connected they really are.

That’s been happening a lot lately and I have been trying to synthesize it all in my head to get a better handle on it. Since Communication is one of my top strengths according to Gallup Strengths, one of the best ways for me to synthesize things in my head is to communicate them. It works as a sort of outward process of communicating inward realities.

I have grown more and more frustrated with the hypocrisy of our culture. Be open-minded until you meet something that flies in the face of what you believe, and then cancel the @#$% out of them. Have things your way, live your own truth, do whatever feels good and right, but when you meet others who are doing that very thing but contrary to your truth, shame them and criticize them to no end.

I don’t think it’s taken me this long to figure it out, maybe it’s taken me until now to finally admit it, but our culture is narcissistic. As defined by the dictionary, narcissism is the act of having an excessive interest in one’s self. The thing that has become more and more apparent to me is that either we don’t realize that our culture is naturally inclined towards creating and building narcissists, we aren’t willing to admit it, or we just don’t know what else to do and so we continue in it.

The old adage that insanity is the process of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results rings true here. We are caught in an endless loop and there needs to be some kind of intervention for us to be thrust out of it. Something needs to stop it. What is that something?

Well, the “something” HAS to come from outside of ourselves. Considering that the problem of narcissism originates within the individual, it would follow that the solution to it would come from outside the individual. The problem, though, is that it flies in the face of the foundation of the culture, the individual and the individual’s rights, needs, desires, and so on. Admitting that there is a solution that comes from outside of myself is a struggle for the individual who has been constantly told that they are enough, that they have all that it takes, that everything they desire can come true, and that the universe should revolve around them.

The admission of inadequacy has been a place of freedom for me in the past few years. Coming to the realization that I don’t have to be all things to all people all the time is a breath of fresh air. There is only one perfect being and it’s not me. I’m pretty sure that it isn’t you either. To continue to operate in a place where we think we are the end-all-be-all is to foolishly buy into these lies that our culture perpetuates and inch ourselves ever closer to burning out.

Our culture is perpetuating narcissists and when they take center stage (or even become president) we are somehow surprised by this. Why? That’s like going into a factory that makes cars, encouraging that factory to make cars, and then criticizing the car because it came out a car. It makes zero sense, and yet that’s exactly what’s happening.

Because there is no disruption of this pattern and because we have been taught the complete opposite of what Taylor Swift has been telling us lately (I’m the problem, it’s me), we continually look to everything and everyone else as the cause and the target of our blame. We fail to be self-aware and ask ourselves the hard questions.

Not only are we not willing to ask the hard questions of ourselves, everyone else around us is terrified to ask those questions of us either. I mean, they don’t want to get canceled or called out themselves, so why should they call out anyone else. After all, they’re mostly getting everything that they want, so why disrupt and ruin a good thing?

Like I said, the answer has to come from outside of ourselves but the only way that we look there is when we come to the startling conclusion that we are finite, fallible, and faulty people. There are limitations to us and the limitless power that we thought we had doesn’t really exist within the confines of our being.

This is the God-shaped hole that Pascal hypothesized exists within all of us. There’s something at the center of each of us that screams to be filled. Pascal posed that only God could fill that hole and yet so many fill it with anything but God, mostly ourselves, which leads us back to the narcissism that’s being created.

Maybe I’m off. I’m willing to admit that, if someone can prove otherwise, but the pieces are starting to look a lot more clear to me as I unpack this. Our endless pursuit of openness and self-centeredness has actually created the only thing that it could possibly create and yet we’re surprised by that fact.

What say you? Do you agree that the culture which has evolved to what we have before us is creating the very thing that we despise? That what it’s creating is the only thing it can possibly create? And that the only solution to the madness and chaos has to come from outside of the self?

Who Am I?

A few weeks ago, I spent a few days away, taking part in a soul care retreat as both a participant and presenter. The retreat led up to a meeting among other leaders in our network of churches for which I only stayed for a portion.

If I’m honest, I don’t love hanging out with other pastors. My mind swirls with endless thoughts when I do, thoughts of inadequacy, thoughts of jealousy, thoughts of far too many things for me to spend the time to write about, at least at this moment. The profession/calling of pastor is not immune to the same constant comparisons among participants that happen within other professions. It can be easy to get lost, to lose yourself.

I had a long car ride home to think, pray, and wonder. I do my best thinking in the weirdest places. The car. The shower. The couch at 3 in the morning. There’s no telling what I will think when the thinking is good, or when exactly that will come. But I’ve learned to cherish the moments, try to capture them as best I can, and find some worthwhile tidbits of wisdom that might propel me forward.

As I drove, I couldn’t help thinking about the level of self-confidence that’s necessary to not lose yourself. In the profession of pastor, not just losing myself to colleagues in their specific contexts but also losing myself to the people who I am called to shepherd and lead.

Our culture has an identity problem, which is a post for another time. You be you. Find out who you really are. It’s like those old books I read as a child, Choose Your Own Adventure, except here we’re choosing our own identity. Again, there is no immunity for pastors in this rat race.

If I’m not careful, I can be who everyone else wants me to be and lose who I really am, lose the person that God created me to be. I can listen to all the wrong voices, get pulled in the wrong directions, find myself morphing towards the wrong identity.

If we’re asking ourselves the question, “Who do you want me to be?” we’d probably better take some time to reevaluate. I’m not called to be who you want me to be but who God has called me to be. It’s a true north of sorts that I believe brings me clarity as a follower of Jesus.

But what does that look like? Is it just an excuse for me to selfishly pursue my own ventures at the expense of the people who are counting on me? I don’t think so.

When we become who others want us to be, they will be disappointed and we will burn out. If we aren’t being true to ourselves and who God has made us to be, we are operating out of our emptiness. While I know that we can operate out of our weakness and sometimes should, if that’s where we are operating out of all the time, we’ll quickly find ourselves empty and lifeless.

To me, it’s a picture of what’s gone wrong with the Church when one person ends up being “everything” to everyone. That’s not the way that the “body” was supposed to function. Read Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians or Ephesians, there are many parts with many functions that are intended to work together. As we look at our own bodies, we don’t have some super part that somehow encapsulates the functions of all the other parts and does them all masterfully and alone. Why has the Church considered this would be the case?

In my own experience, I have seen far too many pastors who have fallen victim to this very thing. They were forced to be who everyone expected them to be, which more often than not looked like whoever had been their predecessor either at that church or whichever church that person had come from before. The people I saw victimized by that lost themselves and it led to hurt, anger, bitterness, and so much more.

I have found that the only way to combat this is a constant and persistent movement in another direction. Admitting who I am and who I am not is important, but it’s equally important for those around me to understand the very same things about themselves. It isn’t enough for me to have confidence in these things on my own, in community, we need to understand that about both ourselves and each other.

If we are going to function as a body, we need to understand our functions in the body. If we don’t do that, we’ll just find ourselves doing more of the same, both as pastors and those within the community of the church.

We have been created with intention and gifting that God has given us. Like snowflakes, not one of us is the same as someone else. Are we on a journey to understand who that is, who God has made us to be and what he has called us to do? Are we looking in the right place to find these things and the definition of our own identity or are we letting others give that definition to us?


I recently finished a series of messages in my church about the spaces in which we interact with others. Each of those spaces had specific features that allow us to experience certain things there in that space. The smaller the space, the less number of people, the harder some of those things that we experience become.

In spaces where we are among 15 or fewer people, we first experience accountability. In even smaller spaces, we experience vulnerability. Both of those words are words that people are not always comfortable with, they’d rather avoid them if they could.

There is so much to say about accountability. Every day, my news feed and Twitter feed is overrun by stories of authority figures who have abused their powers and avoided accountability. Whether they thought they were above the rules and the law or they simply thought that rules didn’t apply to them, they avoided giving answers and account for the things that they were doing.

I’m learning to let sadness and heartbreak lead in these moments. Like the various stages of grief, we experience a gamut of emotions as we face these situations. Lamenting the brokenness of the world is an appropriate response.

The thing is, I’ve seen this at so many different levels. From the Joe Somebody who lives a few houses down and who’s been carrying on an extramarital affair for years to the pastor who has somehow justified his physical and abuse of women and surrounded himself with walls of protection, to everything in between. Yes, we can say that the fallout from this kind of behavior and lack of accountability may be greater the higher the position, but the consequences for everyone, particularly the victims, are deep and painful no matter what.

Why are we so afraid to be accountable to the things that we say we will do? It seems that there may be nowhere this is more pronounced than in government. Policies are created because they lie along the party line, but then when the implications of those policies begin to reveal themselves, we hedge a little bit but refrain from admitting that maybe the system is broken and we need to stop painting our policies with such broad brushes. Maybe things really are as nuanced as they seem.

I need accountability. While I hate to admit it, it’s a fact of life. While there are some of us who are gifted in the area of discipline and focus, who have a natural inclination for holding ourselves accountable, most of us need someone else to walk with and ask us the hard questions. Needing accountability and wanting accountability are two very different things.

I mentioned vulnerability as well and I think that the two really go hand in hand. In order for others to hold us accountable, we need to be vulnerable, and that’s the other edge to this sword. Even if we are willing to be held accountable, are we willing to be vulnerable, to allow ourselves to be seen deeply by others? Are we willing to stand before someone and bear the naked truth of our soul?

Most often we avoid these things out of fear. I get that completely. There have been far too many times in my life when I have allowed myself to be vulnerable only to have someone take the very thing that I had revealed and use it against me or hold it over my head. Which begs the question to me, why are we afraid of vulnerable leaders?

I think there is a shift taking place. As much as the younger generations are talking about trauma ad nauseam, their tolerance for BS is also fairly low, they’re not willing to persist in the places and with the people that have caused that trauma. Yes, we’ve all been hurt. We need to acknowledge that, address it, allow healing to come to that hurt, and hopefully hold the responsible party(ies) responsible, but we also have to continue to live life. Life doesn’t stop so that we can get to our happy place, it just keeps rolling along.

I recently read a book called Tribe by Sebastian Junger. He talked about the fact that we are wired for connection, we flourish when we have it and flounder when we don’t. In historical situations where you might have thought chaos would erupt, the opposite takes place and there is often more order than during normal circumstances.

What can I do to model this? How can I seek to be accountable and vulnerable? How can I invite others onto this journey? The million dollar questions that drive one another, I think. As we model accountability and vulnerability for others, we can create spaces that are safe for those things, cultures where accountability and vulnerability are welcomed rather than feared, accepted and encouraged rather than abused.

We can’t lead horses to water or make them drink, all we can do is show the way and go there ourselves. The only one that I am accountable for is myself and that’s how I have to lead. Tall order? Yes, but absolutely necessary to do.

What Makes You Rich?

On Christmas Eve, after our family attended our Christmas Eve service, we made our way home, ate our traditional dinner of Chinese takeout, and watched It’s A Wonderful Life the way we have for the last few years.

It used to just be my wife and I that watched it together after the kids had gone to sleep, but we’re at that age where the kids are often staying up later than we are. So we decided to welcome them into the fold of George Bailey fans and have enjoyed watching the film together as a family.

I know there was a recent article questioning the “Mary Problem” in It’s A Wonderful Life. While I know that the film is far from perfect and that it’s set in a specific context, there are so many things that draw me to it, not the least of which is that I think we get to witness the transformation of George Bailey as he begins to understand the meaning of significance and riches.

I’m always drawn into stories of those who experience transformations, especially when those transformations are good. There’s something to be said about coming to the realization of what is important in life. It’s at the heart of so many films that I love the most: It’s A Wonderful Life, Citizen Kane, Magnolia, and so many more.

As the community rallies around George Bailey at the end of the film, contributing to money that was misplaced and then stolen by Mr. Potter, the “richest man in town,” George’s younger brother, Harry, dubs George “The Richest Man in Town.” So which one of these men is the richest? Mr. Potter, the cutthroat businessman who wants to own everything in town, including the Bailey’s Building and Loan? Or George, the man who abandoned his dreams of traveling the world and being an architect in order to stay and help people?

There’s a powerful scene in the film that takes place right after George’s father dies. The board of the Building and Loan is meeting with Potter at the helm and Potter tries to convince them all that the Building and Loan needs to go away so that his bank can be the only lending institution in town.

George gets frustrated and gives a speech that eventually leads to the board nominating George to take over for his father. In that speech, George talks of what his father was able to do for the people who work and live and die in their little town, he tells Potter, “People were human beings to him, but to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle.”

I think George’s words hit me deeper every time that I hear them. They are words that are applicable and meaningful regardless of what you do as an occupation. When it comes down to it, it’s about people? Many of us make it about a bottom line, which can often mean money. We can move towards efficiency and effectiveness. We can emphasize our reach and the number of people to whom we are connected, but are these things the most important?

I’ve found myself chuckling over the years when I hear organizations tout their human resources departments which can sometimes emphasize everything but the “human” part. When we miss the importance and value of human beings and see them as simply a means to an end, I think we’re not only not rich but we’re also showing the depth of our relational, emotional, and spiritual poverty. As Peter Scazzero has said, we are human beings not human doings.

Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of my transition from my career as a consulting engineer to work in full-time ministry. I don’t think that transition makes me something special, nor do I think that consulting engineers are any less significant. I also believe that it’s possible for people to work as engineers, teachers, doctors, businessmen, and other professions and still be working in ministry in all of those places.

George Bailey learns what it means to be rich through the course of It’s A Wonderful Life. It’s not about how much money you make, how many businesses you own, how many customers you have, or anything like that. It’s about the difference you make in the lives around you. Am I living in such a way that people are affected by me in a positive way? I sure hope so.

Some might disagree with me, and that’s fine, we can talk about the nuances of this. Riches are measured by far more than just the size of our houses, our cars, and our bank accounts. Like I said, I think that those things can be big and we can still make a difference, I don’t believe that financial riches and intangible riches are mutually exclusive, that we can’t have one and not the other. I also believe that Jesus’ words speak to this when he spoke of how difficult it was for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, it’s not impossible, just hard.

How are you measuring your richness? With your bank statements and net worth? With something else? Is there something that’s more valuable to you than people?

I’m continuing to be shaped in this area. It’s too easy for me to fall back into my default position where people become cogs in the machine of getting things done. For me, it’s a constant and daily journey as I am realigned back to the way of Jesus who was available and interruptible. I’m hoping that I can be available and interruptible to the people in my path today.

Book Plan for 2023

2022 wasn’t a great year for achieving my reading goals. So, I’ve carried over some of the books from my reading plan last year to this year. Some of them I had already started and gotten nearly halfway, others, I hadn’t started or hadn’t gotten very far at all.

There are a few books on here that have ventured outside of my typical taste. Over the past few years, I have intentionally tried to read books with which I’m most likely not going to agree. There isn’t anything on this list that fits that description, but I’m open to additions as the year progresses and fully expect that in sharing my list for this year at the end of the year, there will be some books on there that will fit that description.

Although I didn’t complete last year’s plan, I’ve still added more books to this year’s plan for a total of twenty books. We’ll see how that goes. I read more than that last year, but didn’t hit my goal of all fifteen books on my plan.

Here’s my list:

Wendell Berry “The Art of the Commonplace”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer “Life Together”

Bono “Surrender”

Neil Cole “Organic Church”

Jeanne DuPrau “The Prophet of Yonwood”

Jeanne DuPrau “The Diamond of Darkhold”

Michael Eric Dyson “Holler If You Hear Me”

Zach Eswine “Spurgeon’s Sorrows”

Atul Gawande “Being Mortal”

Sebastian Junger “Tribe”

Stephen King “Fairy Tale”

Patrick Lencioni “Silos, Politics and Turf Wars”

Stephen Mansfield “Lincoln’s Battle With God”

Peter Scazzero “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality”

Ronald Sider “The Scandal of Evangelical Politics” 

James Bryan Smith “The Good and Beautiful”

James K.A. Smith “Desiring the Kingdom”

Andy Stanley “Not In It To Win It”

Dallas Willard “Renovation of the Heart”

Kurt Willems “Echoing Hope”

I’m always open to recommendations, so feel free to throw some out there in the comments if you have any.

Happy reading!

Books Read 2022

My reading plan has evolved through the years, dwindling down from 30+ books to around a dozen and anything in between. I realized that I have become much more spontaneous in what I read and instead of fighting against that, I decided to go with it. While I’ve still had a plan, limiting the number of “required” reading books for me has given me space to explore recommendations and interests that pop up throughout the year.

2022 was a weird year in reading for me. I think the mental and physical exhaustion of the previous two years finally caught up with me. At some point during the summer, I hit a wall and just didn’t want to read, which is a big deal for me.

At that point, I knew that I needed to do something different to break out of the reading funk in which I found myself. I’m pretty sure that was when I decided to re-read “The Green Mile.” It was the first time that I had read it again since its inaugural release way back in the mid 90s.

Eventually, as the year began to wind down, I found myself reading because I wanted to rather than because I had to. I’ve never done well with the “have to’s” in life. I don’t take commands very well. I would much rather have gentle suggestions and recommendations.

The number of books that I have reviewed has gone substantially in the past few years. COVID changed the way that publishers were promoting their books and it seems that many dropped their former approaches, which is fine as I felt like there were many books that I reviewed that I may never have read otherwise.

I mentioned re-reading “The Green Mile.” There were a few other re-readings in 2022. I re-read Alan Hirsch’s “5Q” and will most likely dive into that again in 2023 as I will be teaching and training around some of the material in it. I dug out Knowles’ “A Separate Peace” which I probably hadn’t read since high school. I also re-read C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters” to tie in to a sermon series on margin that I was doing.

I have accumulated a number of young adult book series and decided to jump into the City of Ember series, reading two of the four books in the series. I also read “A Clockwork Orange” which had been on my list for a number of years as the movie has been one that has intrigued me and I wanted to make the comparison between the two. I also read the book on which “Field of Dreams” was based, “Shoeless Joe.” Making comparisons between books and movies is always fun to see what needs to be eliminated because it doesn’t translate to the screen or would bulk up the running time of a movie.

The two books that I would say were most enjoyable or impactful for me this year, one fiction and one non-fiction, would be Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games prequel “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” (non-fiction) and Preston Sprinkle’s “Embodied.”

So without further ado, here is my list of books read in 2022.

Greg Austen “Baptism and Its Significance”

Anthony Burgess “A Clockwork Orange”

Eugene Cho “Thou Shalt Not Be A Jerk”

Jeff Christopherson “Introducing the Kingdom Matrix”

Suzanne Collins “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes”

Becket Cook “A Change of Affection”

Wayne Cordeiro “Doing Church As A Team”

Jeanne DuPrau “The City of Ember”

Jeanne DuPrau “The People of Sparks”

Tom Felton “Beyond the Wand”

Makoto Fujimura “Culture Care”

J. Horace Germany “At Any Cost”

Craig Groeschel “Hope in the Dark”

Alan Hirsch “5Q”

Joshua Jarvis “Kingdom Driven Leader”

Timothy Keller “Counterfeit Gods”

W. Phillip Keller “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”

Stephen King “The Green Mile – Part 1 – The Two Dead Girls”

Stephen King “The Green Mile – Part 2 – The Mouse on the Mile”

Stephen King “The Green Mile – Part 3 – Coffey’s Hands”

Stephen King “The Green Mile – Part 4 – The Bad Death of Eduard Delacroix”

Stephen King “The Green Mile – Part 5 – Night Journey”

Stephen King “The Green Mile – Part 6 – Coffey on the Mile”

Stephen King “Revival”

W.P. Kinsella “Shoeless Joe”

John Knowles “A Separate Peace”

C.S. Lewis “The Screwtape Letters”

John Lewis “Across That Bridge”

John Lynch, Bruce McNicol, and Bill Thrall “The Cure”

Joseph Myers “The Search to Belong”

Brad Paisley and David Wild “Diary of a Player”

Russ Ramsey “Behold the Lamb of God”

Jimmy Scroggins, Steve Wright, and Leslee Bennett “Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations”

Nelson Searcy & C.A. Meyer “At the Cross”

Preston Sprinkle “Embodied”

Michelle Ferrigno Warren “The Power of Proximity”

August Wilson “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

I would love to hear from you about some of your favorite reads of 2022. What’s on your list for 2023?

I will be posting about my plan for 2023 in the coming days.