The 2018 Book Plan

20180103_090939This is Year #5 for me doing an annual book plan. I’ve been trying to streamline the process year by year to see if I can get better. Last year, I read 69 books. My book plan had twenty-two books total of which I read eleven. So, 50% isn’t a horrible number, but I certainly want to do my best to move closer to achieving 100% read on my list.

I never used to be the guy who would read halfway through a book and then just leave it, but it’s been happening more and more. A number of the books on my list for this year are books that were started in 2017 or before which I never finished. Call it a Year of Jubilee, trying to play catch up a little bit.

I’ve tried to pepper my list with books that are strictly for enjoyment. Finally going to finish the Lord of the Rings trilogy of books for the first time in my life.

I’ve also got a number of books that are related to my position as a pastor. They run the gamut on topics as my role is fairly diverse. Just like baseball teams have utility players, I feel like I’m a utility pastor in many ways, playing roles across the board and filling in gaps as they need to be filled.

There are 30 books total on this list, a bolder number than the 22 books that were on last year’s list. But I have been intentionally setting aside books over the last few months, piling them up on my desk and keeping them in front of me as I’ve looked towards compiling this list.

As always, I am open to book suggestions. As I’ve posted my Books Read In 2017 post on social media, I have had people make recommendations which I hope to follow through on in 2018.

Here’s hoping for a more successful completion of my list in 2018!

Bill Bryson “A Walk in the Woods”

Steven Curtis Chapman “Between Heaven & the Real World”

G.K. Chesterton “Orthodoxy”

Bruce Cockburn “Rumours of Glory”

Chris Crowley & Henry S. Lodge, M.D. “Younger Next Year”

David Daniell “William Tyndale – A Biography”

Kevin DeYoung “The Hole in Our Holiness”

Shusaku Endo “Silence”

Zack Eswine “Preaching to a Post-Everything World”

Michael Frost “Incarnate”

Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch “The Shaping of Things to Come”

Nicky Gumble “Alpha – Questions of Life”

Caleb Kaltenbach “Messy Grace”

Tim Keller “Center Church”

Erik Larson “The Devil in the White City”

Joseph Loconte “A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and A Great War”

Barack Obama “The Audacity of Hope”

Stacy Perman “In-N-Out Burger”

Eugene Peterson “As Kingfishers Catch Fire”

John Piper “Brothers, We Are Not Professionals”

Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin “Growing Young”

Soong-Chan Rah “The Next Evangelicalism”

Francis Schaeffer “The Church Before the Watching World”

Francis Schaeffer “The Church at the End of the 20th Century”

James K.A. Smith “You Are What You Love”

Paul Tillich “Dynamics of Faith”

J.R.R. Tolkien “The Two Towers”

J.R.R. Tokien “Return of the King”

J.R.R. Tolkien “The Tolkien Reader”

Tish Harrison Warren “Liturgy of the Ordinary”

Painted Fairways

painted fairwaysEarly last month, I was meeting with a friend and mentor for lunch. We were sitting in the dining room of his club, looking onto the golf fairways that ran along the property. As I perused all that my eyes could see through the windows, deep in thought, my eyes hung up on the fairways, their green hue a stunning contrast to the dying landscape which surrounded them.

My friend must have noticed my gaze lingering on the grass because he turned to me and said, “Do you know how they get it so green?”

Shaken from my daze, I quickly replied, “No.”

“Paint,” he said.

He could tell I was confused based on the quizzical look on my face, so he continued, “They paint the fairways in the wintertime to maintain the green.” Then he smiled at me, awaiting my reaction.

I was stunned, but not shocked. I smiled and we continued our conversation, moving on from the slight detour that the fairway had caused us. But I’ve thought about that fairway multiple times in the weeks since.

Even as I sit and write this, I’m snickering to myself as I think about the level that we go through to keep up outward appearances. We don’t care if the grass is dead or dying, we’ll do whatever it takes to put on the front and make everyone think that things are just fine.

How often do we do it?

Let me think long and hard about this social media update I’m about to post. Regardless of the tumultuous morning I’ve had, let me put it out there for everyone to see that my life is perfect and that everything’s going just fine.

We just finished up a Christmas season during which my family received tons of Christmas cards, complete with perfect family pictures. I loved each and every one of them, but you know what I loved more than those pictures, the accompanying letters that told of the good, the bad, and the ugly of the past year.

You see, I’m doing my best to stop pretending. I’m not going to waste any more time and money on painting fairways. If the grass is dead, so be it, let the world know, maybe it’ll make someone else feel better that they’re not the only one with dead grass.

I’ve become a big Jackson Browne fan over the years and of all the music he’s written which I love and admire, his song “The Pretender” is among my favorites. The final words of the song are haunting:

Though true love could have been a contender
Are you there?
Say a prayer for the Pretender
Who started out so young and strong
Only to surrender

We don’t have to surrender, to give in to what we think everyone else wants to see. We don’t have to give in to save face and put on a front so everyone thinks our life is perfect.

Are you tired of painting fairways? Are you tired of pretending? Maybe you don’t need a resolution, no idle promises to make and break. Maybe you just need to stop pretending.

So, go ahead, let ‘em see your dead grass. You just might be the inspiration that someone else needs to stop painting their fairways.


It Takes A Village…

madison parkMaybe you’ve heard it said that it takes a village to raise a child. In the case of Eric Motley, it wasn’t a village, but a town.

Motley chronicles his upbringing in his book “Madison Park: A Place of Hope.” He tells his story of his journey from a small town on the outskirts of Montgomery, Alabama all the way to the White House. From circumstances that seem unlikely and from people who gave far more of themselves than most people might be expected to give, Motley shows how many roots have fed into the tree of his life.

Motley starts out as a child born out of wedlock and raised by his grandparents. He is born into a town which he describes as, “a close-knit cocoon of several hundred self-reliant descendants of former slaves.” Madison Park, as he describes it, seems either like a dream come true or a creepy version of Mayberry, or maybe both. Everyone knows everyone and people look out for each other. When someone doesn’t have something, others rally around to provide. Needs are met over and over with no expectation of repayment. It’s a story that we may have heard many times played out in fairy tales, but for Motley, it’s all true and he has been the recipient of the kindness, generosity, and grace of an entire town.

Eric Motley was given the moniker D.U.K. at an early age, the designated university kid. He would be given opportunities that his parents and so many others in his town had never had. While vicarious living can be dangerous at times, the kind of vicarious living that we see in the lives of the residents of Madison Park as they pour into Eric Motley is inspirational and uplifting.

Experiences and all the learning that goes along with them, that’s what Eric Motley gained in Madison Park.  Being babysit for years by Mrs. Hattie Mae Sherman, also known as Mama Sherman, who operated the Washerteria. Being helped and supported by Aunt Shine, who rose in church to call upon the townspeople to rally around young Eric when he had been moved from the Rabbits to the Turtles reading group while in first grade. The town came out in droves with books, encyclopedias, magazines, and a whole array of reading materials that would help Eric move along in his reading. Picking blackberries for Mrs. Beulah Byrd. And on and on the stories go.

Madison Park implanted itself on the person of Eric Motley. As he attended Samford University and continued on to receive degrees from St. Andrew’s in Scotland, Motley would always find a home back in Madison Park. Though the years have changed him and he has grown and learned, the place always seemed sacred to him. After both of his grandparents, his caregivers, had died and been buried, the townspeople had reserved the burial plot next to them so that Motley might eventually be laid to rest alongside them, assuring that the town would always be his home.

Throughout his story, Motley is always humble, winsome, and charming. He never lets the degrees which he’s accumulated go before him but always speaks of his own merit. He never ceases to mention and remember all who have poured into him, knowing that his life is a testimony to not only the lives of his grandparents who raised him, but of a town who loved him, was proud of him, and wanted nothing more than to see him succeed.

Motley understands the privilege that he’s received. He writes, “Invariably the will of God mysteriously unfolds just as it should.” “Madison Park” is the story of the mysterious will of God unfolding in the life of a little boy who has gone on to fulfill the dreams of an entire town. I don’t expect that we’ve heard the last from Eric Motley. If you want to be inspired, to feel good, and to know and see the power of invested lives, “Madison Park” is a book that will give you all that and more.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Booklook Bloggers. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)