2017 Reading List

Each year I compile all of the books I read the previous year. It’s largely great for me to reference back, but I also hope it may help you if you’re needing some book ideas! You can see my reading list for 2016, if you’re interested.

I’m really excited about reading in 2018. I recently joined Buffer, and one of our goals at Buffer is to encourage growth and learning. In keeping with this goal, we provide unlimited books for teammates!

Quick note here: I only try to read books that I think I’m going to love of course, but I’ve added a thumbs up to the books below that I would highly recommend.  The books I read it 2017:

  • Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans
  • Finding God in the Waves by Mike McHargue
  • The Sin of Certainty by Peter Enns
  • Faith Unraveled by Rachel Held Evans
  • A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
  • The Bible Tells Me So by Peter Enns
  • A Farewell to Mars by Brian Zahnd
  • What We Talk About When We Talk About God by Rob Bell
  • What is the Bible by Rob Bell
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
  • Blue Horses by Mary Oliver
  • Cross Vision Greg Boyd
  • Sinner’s in the Hands of a Loving God by Brian Zahnd
  • Falling Upward by Richard Rohr

Favorite Blogs

I’ve grown a lot these past 5 years as I’ve continued to journey. Here are a number of blogs that I read on a semi-regular basis. The past 5 years have seen me try to bring in many more voices than just white males. I’ll keep this updated over time as I discover more great writers:


Afraid of Writing

I am pretty terrified to write. There, I said it. You have no idea how many drafts of posts, documents, and notes sit on my computer. I have literally hundreds of started articles, half-written blog posts, and one-verse songs.

I’ve never considered myself a perfectionist because it doesn’t really impact any other area of my daily life. But, when I am setting out to write, the perfectionism sets in.

Maybe listing what I am afraid of will help. (At this point, I’m starting to get that feeling that I often do… “Maybe I should just save this post to Drafts and forget the whole thing.” Must press on!)

  • I am constantly afraid that I will receive push back for what I say. I’m absolutely terrified, not that people will disagree with me, but that I will not be able to properly defend every possible argument that they could come back at me with.
    • My response to myself: While there is some reason to be afraid of this (since it has happened to me before,) this does not mean that I should not write what I believe to be helpful and true. Just because I may not be smart enough to defend something to the Nth degree doesn’t mean it isn’t helpful and needing to be said.
  • I am afraid that what I write won’t be worthy of being read. Nearly three years ago, I wrote a piece that ended up going viral. Having a piece appreciated (and hated) by hundreds of thousands of people does something weird to you. After writing it, I thought it would give me the courage to put pen to many more thoughts and ideas I had. But, the opposite has happened; I’m more paralyzed than ever. This high bar now lives in my head. “If millions don’t read this article, is it even worth writing?”
    • My response to myself: Writing is for me as much as it is for you. I know I need to write to be a whole, full-functioning human being. While I do write to hopefully bring about change, I also write to solidify learnings in my own head and heart, to process through personal experiences, and to challenge myself. I may try to appeal to my fellow humans with what I write, but I can’t let that keep me from writing.
  • I am afraid to write because the political and religious climate in the country I reside in is at boiling point. There are so many opinions out on the internet right now and I hate to be one more.
    • My response to myself: We all have spheres of influence where we can help to make something better. I must attempt to leave my world better than I found it. I want my daughter to know that I stood up for what I believed to be right and that it actually cost me something. I can retreat into a people-pleasing cave and have many thoughts in my head that I never share with anyone else. But, I can only do that because of the privilege that I have as a white, Christian male in the most powerful nation in the world. There are many other individuals and groups that lack the power that I take for granted. It is for them and for my legacy that I must use whatever power and voice I do have to potentially generate any kind of change possible.
  • I am afraid to write because there are certain Christian groups (and, thus, individuals) that have a tendency to cast others out of “the fold.” A prominent Christian leader that I grew up following even said “farewell” to another Christian leader when he questioned traditional notions of hell. This is the church world I grew up in and was helping to reproduce. If someone was teaching “heresy” then they needed to be sternly called out and dismissed as the true wolf that they were. The same is true for both scientific and political views (that latter which are really just about how we distribute power in everyday life.) I am afraid that if I publicly step outside positions I grew up with, I’ll be labeled something and hence “farewelled.”
    • My response to myself: Humans have been discussing and thinking critically about our thoughts about God, science, and how the world should work for thousands and thousands of years. Heck, it was only in the last 150 years that Christians were debating whether or not slavery was good and right! So, I think we’re pretty naive if we think we’ve landed on near-perfect truth in our thoughts about God, the world, and science. We need people questioning the status quo, especially in the Church. We need humans challenging the distribution of power in our cities and especially in the Church. We need Christians calling for a better reading of the Bible and hoping to stop the historic using of the Bible for acquiring power.

In a weird way, getting these fears out helps me not be afraid of them—kind of like waking someone up and telling them about your nightmare helps you realize how stupid it really is. (The difference here is that some of these points do present legitimate fears—but the point is that even their worst outcome is better than thinking a bunch of things and never saying them.)

2016 Reading List

At the end of 2014, I made a goal of reading at least 10 pages of a book every day. This seemingly small goal revolutionized my life. In 2015, I read more books than I had read in the rest of my life combined. It sparked a passion for slowing down and consuming written works. There are many lessons to be learned in books — about yourself, others and the world. Just the act of slowing down to read a book is a kind of sabbath that nurtues the soul.

As an object, a book represents slowness and sabbath. It forces you to contemplate and consider. Books are antithetical to other fast-paced objects we touch and look at each day. Phones, computers, televisions, cars, humans. They are all fast. They change quickly. They inundate us with multiple streams of information to think about at the same time. No object is inherently bad. We make them bad when they begin to move our innermost beings away from peace, rest, joy, and steadfastness.

With this landscape of fast-paced objects, reading is more important now than it has ever been. I desire to consume less words in a day. To consume better words. This means shutting off screens. It means creating sacred, unprofaned spaces where silence is allowed to have its full effect. In 2016, I was able to create those small pockets to read the following books, to think and ponder, and to write. I hope to create even more of those spaces in 2017.

1. Mans Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl
A 1946 book by Viktor Frankl chronicling his experiences as an Auschwitz concentration camp inmate during World War II, and describing his psychotherapeutic method, which involved identifying a purpose in life to feel positively about, and then immersively imagining that outcome.

2. The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard

3. Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament by Richard B. Hays

4. How to Be Here by Rob Bell
Rob is one of my favorite communicators. He is a craftsmen of words. I read this in about 3 hours.

5. The Doors of the Sea by David Bentley Hart
Helped me in understanding the Eastern Orthodox tradition and continuing to come out of neo-reformed Calvinsim which was all I had ever heard up until a few years ago.

6. The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel

7. River Flow by David Whyte

8. The Day the Revolution Began by Tom Wright

9. Undiluted by Benjamin Corey

10. Children of God Storybook Bible by Desmond Tutu

Did God Kill Jesus?

Up until a couple years ago, I would have presented the message of Christianity (the “Gospel”) this way:

All humans have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. He’s perfectly just, so he has to punish sin. He punishes sin with death. You are a sinner and God must punish you forever in hell. Jesus stepped in and took your place, absorbing the punishment from God. You are now in the clear and heading to heaven… If you believe that Jesus did this.

Sure, most teachers or doctrinal statements would not convey it quite this bluntly. But, this is what is heard. I would guess that is how most of us would communicate the “gospel.”

It never sat quite right. It didn’t seem consistent with the character of Yahweh God that I read about. It also didn’t make logical sense.

The word “gospel” in Greek is euangelio — essentially meaning “good message” or “good news.” However, the message that I thought and taught until a couple years ago did not seem like “good news” to me or the people I shared it with. This is news of a God who has to punish people because he cannot be around them unless they’re perfect. This is news that contorts the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament into some sort of appeasement for a blood-thirsty God — much resembling the pagan gods of the nations that surrounded ancient Israel. (To better understand why God had Israel sacrifice animals, watch this awesome video. Also, Greg Boyd is really clear.)

What has been refreshing for me is learning that the caricature “gospel” that I told above is a rather “new” idea — gaining its full form in the 1500s with the reformers (most notably Luther and Calvin.¹) It’s called the Penal Substitution view of atonement and it has become the dominant view in western Christianity.

As Mako Nagasawa points out, this caricature gospel creates a God who’s default mode is retribution, not restoration. God needs or wants to take out his wrath on someone (animals in the Old Testament, and people ever since) but Jesus (who is God) steps in the way and absorbs the blow for us. How nice of him. But, it sounds a lot more like God saving himself from himself by using himself (Jesus.) It makes no sense to me.

In comparison, ancient orthodox Christian’s believed that we humans had screwed up our primary, God-given vocation. They believed that there were natural consequences created by placing created things above the Creator — not a divine punishment that had to be doled out on someone.

Tom Wright describes the natural implications of our behavior like this:

The reason “sin” leads to death is not at all that “death” is an arbitrary and somewhat draconian punishment for miscellanous moral shortcomings. The link is deeper than that. It’s like the difference between the ticket you will get if you are caught driving too fast and the crash that will happen if you drive too fast around a sharp bend on a wet road. The crash is intrinsic, the direct consequence of the behavior.

Some of this mix up comes from misunderstanding Genesis 1 and 2 to be a scientific portrayal of how the earth was made.² Rather, Genesis 1 and 2 are describing a great vocational calling for all humans. What is this vocation? It’s to be “a genuine human being, with genuinely human tasks to perform as part of the Creator’s purpose for his world. The main task of this vocation is ‘image-bearing,’ reflecting the Creator’s wise stewardship into the world and reflecting the praises of all creation back to its maker.”³

We were given jobs of ruling creation, of bringing about creations full potential. Of taking care of life, fellow humans, animals, and plants. Of creating communities, schools, agriculture, and villages. We were giving the responsibility to have power and use it for good. This is our true calling and it’s an act of worship to the Creator.

What’s wrong with us humans is then much more than breaking God’s moral law and ticking off the Creator. That’s just a symptom of the real problem: We were called to have responsibility and authority over creation, but we flipped that vocation upside down. We worshiped and gave allegiance to powers and forces within creation — this is idolatry. These forces (some seen like power, money, and sex, and some not seen) have usurped our power and taken over. The natural result of that is death, spoiling human lives, destroying the beautiful creation, and turning God’s world into a hell.

The human problem is idolatry and the corruption of our true vocation, not just “sin.”

I believe a better, more ancient view of what was achieved through Jesus’s death has to do with the restoration of human vocation, of Israel’s vocation, and of the larger divine purpose for the world.

I’m going to explore these topics in coming posts.

1. There were many good things about the Reformation. However, the reformers were mainly focused on fixing purgatory and indulgences. The reformers mostly ratified the penal substitution view of atonement.
2. Genesis 1 and 2 is often, sadly, defended as a scientific textbook for how the world came into existence, instead of the beginning Israel’s story. Check out John Walton’s talk on Human Origins.
3. The Day the Revolution Began by Tom Wright
4. Saved from Sacrifice by Mark S. Heim
5. I See Satan Fall Like Lightning by René Girard

Reconnected Life

At 18, I boarded a 747 from San Francisco to Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Hours later I find myself eating all kinds of exciting new foods, swimming in waterfalls in virgin rainforests, exploring temples and mosques and staring up at the world’s tallest twin towers. Stunning places. Lovely people. A lifetime of adventure in just a few weeks.

I returned to the States to find I had forgotten to take any pictures. Romantically caught up in all of the moments I had experienced, I had not captured any of them. I reached out to a new friend I met on the trip who had not made the same forgetful mistake. He shared his pictures with me.

He emailed back a link to where he uploaded the photos online. Perfect! I clicked the link and was greeted by a blue website I had never seen before. Facebook, it was called. It asked me for my university email address and to verify that I was over 18. Strange. I was desperate for the pictures of my experiences. I could not wait to show them to my friends and family back home. I wanted to tell them all I had seen and point out the new places and faces that now meant so much to me. So, I signed up.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 3.25.39 PM

It was easy to locate my only Facebook friend and download all the pictures from his only album: “Malaysia 2005.” I downloaded them all and was set! That was it.

Little did I know how integrated this foreign blue website would become in my life. I could not have guessed what this “social network” would do to the culture. When I signed up, Facebook was just .3% of its current size. It was benign. It was a declawed cat.

So now I am 28. My wife and I have been married nearly three years. We have a daughter and plans for more. 2338 Facebook friends later, I now find myself searching for ways to remove unnecessary technology from my family’s life. Why? It does not take too much of our time. We are not addicted to Candy Crush. We have dinner together every night and talk about our days. So, why?

Maybe because we are tempted to write quick little messages — short texts. The easiest form of communication is often the shallowest and least costly. Texts and Facebook messages are almost too easy. They are too easy for two reasons. First, they allow us to speak our minds without thinking about what we are saying. Second, they remove value from the message. If someone can fire off lots of little blurbs to lots of people, it is suddenly not very special.

Life moves so fast by its self, do I need to further speed it up? My personality already tempts me to move quickly. My nature struggles to have long conversations or sit down and write a well thought out letter or email to someone. Why should I make it more difficult on myself?

Is that Facebook’s fault? Not directly. Is it the fault of the iPhone? Not entirely. But, it is all of these things. They all play a part. I want to slow down. I want to be more thoughtful.

Those experiences I had at 18 in Malaysia were amazing. I fear my children will be tempted to go to social media not to remember their amazing experiences, but rather go to social media as the experience.

That is sad. Does me returning to a dumb phone and deleting my Facebook reverse a worldwide current? Definitely not. But, as my family grows, I do not want them to look at dad and see the skeleton of a former-dreamer — a grown up Peter Pan who had lost his sense of awe and wonder at the world.

If Facebook and iPhones are the strong river that we are all content to jump into, I want to swim against it. There is a deadly waterfall approaching, even though it is hard to see now.


It is time for me to reconnect and link myself in with my family and be present in experiences. It is time for me to set the tone for my family.

We Walk

The best day came unexpectedly
I would have thought it more
Than simply walking by the road
Holding your tiny body in my arms

Feet dangling, head rested
My chest the happy pillow
Arms wrapped round my arms
Delighted just to be together

We walk. My feet work for us both
I describe everything I see to you
You see things for the first time
Eyes as wide as the sky as you look

You’re captivated by things that
me and my grownups have forgotten
are even there. And we walk.
We talk about everything we see

Cows are fascinated by you as you
are of them. The oranges blow in
the breeze and your eyes dance as
you watch their movement there

You watch the trees sway back
and forth. Your mouth drops in awe
at the simplest of creation. Heaven
must be like this. In awe at the basic

things most have forgotten to look at
Things we take for granted. Things
we don’t have eyes to appreciate now,
but we did before our eyes were polluted

Teach me to have eyes like you, little friend
Close my eyes enough to see what you see
Let my jaw drop by the simple words of
my Father, explaining the basic creations

Listen ears. Hear your Father. He speaks
to you. Wrap your arms around him
like your daughter does to you. Listen
as He explains how the cow moo’s

We walk together. You teach me how to
wonder again. Eyes wide as the sky.
Mouth dropped like a cave. Wonder.
Teach me to wonder like you, little girl.

The best day came unexpected. And we,
we walk. The sky looks on us. Grace.
The best day caught me by surprise.
We walk. Teach me to wonder again.

I’m learning to love poetry, though I do not know what I am doing. This is one of my first attempts in many years.

The Last Generation of People Who Hate Their Jobs

My memory is pretty bad, but there are a few things etched in my mind: when I first laid eyes on my wife. The moment the doors opened at the back of the church and she turned the corner to walk down the aisle. The birth of my daughter.

But, I also won’t forget this random day in February when I was 12 years old.

I spent many Saturdays going into my dad’s office while he caught up on work. My sister and I would play on the phones — calling each other from room to room, pretending we were on important calls. I would sit at the desks and write on my dad’s letterhead. I would gaze with big eyes at the walls of filing cabinets. To me, this lending office outside of Portland, Oregon was a kingdom and my dad, as manager, was the king.

The Last Generation of People Who Hate Their Jobs

Every night I would hear the garage door open and I’d run down the stairs, slide around the corner in my socks, and greet him at the door. “How was your day at work?” He’d talk about his meetings, deals he had closed and new people he hired.

Then, the next day, he would go back to work. The end of the day would come, the garage door would open, and I’d come running down to meet him again.

This repeated day after day, year after year, until Valentine’s Day when I was 12 years old.

He went to work. The end of the day came. The garage door opened and I came sliding in to meet him. But something was different this day. I could see it on his face.

He was holding a box with all his things in it. When I say those words, you know exactly what happened. But, to a 12-year-old kid, I didn’t understand.

How could they fire him? Didn’t they know about the awards he had won year after year — “best in the company.” Didn’t they know how much money he had brought in for the company? Didn’t they know that his branch was consistently top in the state? Didn’t they know how hard he worked? Didn’t they know how he pushed himself, set higher bars, and managed his team to do the same? It wasn’t that he got fired. Sometimes people don’t work out and are better off working elsewhere. That wasn’t the issue here. This was about someone not being treated correctly.

That moment is etched in my mind because it didn’t make sense. Unfortunately, I would come to find out that it was called “business.” Over the next 16 years, I would learn that the expression, “it’s just business,” let you treat people poorly and get away with it. “It’s just business” was a get-out-of-jail-free card that meant you didn’t have to think about an employee’s family, health, or happiness.

The workplace taught me that people are expendable and that profit is the most important thing. People are cogs in machines — get as much out of them as you can. I learned that weekends were when you could do things you were passionate about, but the workplace was where you did things someone else was passionate about.

It all seemed so wrong. What happened to that wonder I used to have for “work?” Was work and business really this bad?

But then something amazing happened. I started to see companies pop up that were saying and doing things completely different, like:

“We encourage all employees to take the time they need for vacation, to pursue their own interests, to stay healthy, and to spend time with friends and family.” — Automattic

“Show gratitude. Choose positivity and happiness. Do the right thing.” — Buffer

They believe things like:

“This company is yours to steer — toward opportunities and away from risks. You have the power to green-light projects. You have the power to ship products.” —Valve

“We want to make sure you’re emotionally and physically healthy. If you need anything, just ask someone and we’ll make sure you’re taken care of. We want you to thrive.” — Simple

“We believe in having a full life outside of the office.” — MeetEdgar

“We acknowledge that we have room to grow, and we push ourselves to actively elevate those who might otherwise be suppressed. We are all about people. You’ll notice that we value trust, honesty, and empathy.” — Braintree

It wasn’t about the “perks” like free food at work or a loose vacation policy. Those are things that only large companies with funding can afford. No. These companies were set apart by the way they cared about people.

People are humans, not cogs in machines. There are finally companies that champion these values. They care more about the health, growth, and happiness of their people than they do about just making a profit.

The number one thing I hear from my thousands of Sumry users is that it’s really, really hard to find a job at a company that will care about you.

That is sad. It shouldn’t be that way. It should be hard to find a job at a company that treats you like a machine, not the other way around. I’m tired of people telling me this is impossible.

We can get there.

It takes not setting for the status quo. That means founders and CEOs deciding that their people is all they have — that treating them well is the best thing they can do for their company’s growth.

It takes individuals refusing to apply at companies that treat people like machines. It’s not hopeless. You can find a company that cares about you as a person. My team is building tools that make it easier to find these companies.

I want “it’s just business” to be an expression we use to talk about the ways a company made it possibly for a father to attend his son’s tee-ball practices. I want that expression to be used to talk about companies that insist on emotional and physical rest for their employees.

“It’s just business” doesn’t have to be an excuse to treat people poorly. It should be a war cry for a new way to work: where people are treated like humans. Where families are valued and having a healthy life is the goal. Where growing and getting better professionally and personally is encouraged.

It’s just business.

It’s business that we can be excited about. It’s work with a purpose.

You see, that day my dad walked through the door is forever etched in my memory. I’ll never forget it.

I never want my daughter to see me walk through the door with a box full of my dashed hopes and dreams. I never want to put my trust in a company that doesn’t care about me.

That day in February when I was 12 changed my life. My dad would go on to start his own business and prove that he truly was the king I always thought he was. He pays his employees more than most in his industry. When one of his employees needed a car, he gave them one of his own.

That day completely changed my perspective on work. I’ve joined my dad in a revolt against the status quo.

Do you hear that? It’s the sound of the garage door opening.

What side of “it’s just business” will you be on?


This article was first published by The Huffington Post on October 23, 2015.

Stop Hating Work

It’s time we surrendered to the truth: We’re not really happy at work.

We live in a world of hover-boards and Siri, of possibility and opportunity. It’s evident that we have advanced 200 years beyond the industrial revolution. Yet while we live in these advanced societies of freedom and democracy, we choose to work in corporations of structure, rigidity, hierarchy and greed. From 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, we might as well be living in the 1820s.

We are all too familiar with the sinking feeling of Sunday evening. After indulging in a life-giving weekend full of things we love, we are now hours away from reentering the corporate race.

When did it all go so wrong?

Remember when we entered the workforce young, innocent and full of hope? Remember how we put our trust in corporations — assuming they had our best interest in mind — only to find them full of politics, power and ego?

It used to seem so strange and wrong. But everyone else seemed fine with it, so we went along with the norms we strongly sensed: Leave your personality at home. Bring your macho, alter-ego to work. Be professional. Fight for power and the next promotion. Ditch your personal dreams and aspirations. Put your family second.

Day after day. Year after year. We work our job to afford a lifestyle we only really get to live on weekends, working with people we don’t really like on things we don’t really care about to earn money so we can buy things we don’t really have time to enjoy. By the time we’re in our 40s, we figure we might as well put up with it a few more years so we can retire to happiness.


There must be a better way.

Many leaders are saying “no” to this vicious cycle. The movement is growing. People all across the world are rejecting this outdated, corporate vision for work and are choosing to do things differently.

This isn’t about superficial, Silicon-Valley-inspired perks like ping pong tables, free food, and Playstation’s at work. It’s about real change. The kind of change that affects the core of how a company operates.

Imagine companies full of happy people working to make an actual impact on problems they care about. Picture working environments that enable people to outgrow their current job and reach their full potential. Dare to dream of a place where everyone has autonomy and is trusted to make the right decisions for the company and its customers.

That sounds like a wonderful world to live and work in.

It’s time to take a stand against ego-driven politics and hierarchies. Let’s say “no” to unnecessary corporate traditions that value power and conformity. Together, we can boldly declare our desire for companies driven by purpose, impact and meaning — where every member is encouraged to keep growing and become their best self. We want to work in environments where people are treated like humans, not cogs in a machine.

This is an idea that binds us together. It is possible to love our jobs. Work can be a place of meaning, purpose and happiness. Let’s fight for that.

This post originally appeared on Huffington Post.

2014 Lessons

It’s common to look forward and forget to look back. I don’t struggle with that. I reflect a lot — much of my day is spent reflecting. I reflect on things from minutes ago, days ago, months ago and sometimes even many years ago. I think back to conversations I had and teachings I heard. I recall people that have come into and out of my life. I think about verses I read and the way I used to think.

Reflecting isn’t a problem for me. I do have a problem, though. It’s remembering lessons. It’s taking all of these memories and coming out the other side with a nugget. Something I can write down. Something to hold on to. Something I learned.

That’s my weakness. That’s what I’m always attempting to get better at. Consider this piece an attempt in hopefully the right direction. I feel that if I try to synthesize these memories and actually write down a lesson, maybe it will stick. Maybe I’ll learn from it.

You get to read that attempt. So, bless you.

1. Be excited about being who God made you to be

I’ve wrestled with identity since my teen years. In short, I tried so hard to be extroverted. It seemed that extroverts had all the best traits: Life of the party, gregarious, funny, good at speaking, etc. I didn’t want to be labeled an “introvert.” They were the ones who didn’t like crowds, got nervous public speaking and wanted to take a book and go hide from people. I didn’t want that! This year was freeing for me. Susan Cain influenced me greatly in describing the benefits of introverted leaders. Silly posts even helped me realize that it was a great thing to be introverted. It feels like finally finding the spot for the puzzle piece that you’ve been trying to cram in the wrong place for ever. The sooner we learn to be excited about how God has made us the better. I’m now free to enjoy being who I was created to be.

2. God doesn’t think it was a waste of time

I look back at some of the things I said, thought and wrote years ago and laugh. Sometimes I shake my head. I was naive and somewhat arrogant. Being a Christian, to me, was all about accomplishing something for the Lord. What pride. I lifted up my head about 9 months ago to realize God had been letting me run off a little bit. All the while I was running out there pridefully, he was chuckling. Waiting for me to come crashing down. I did crash. It was a crashing of the heart, mind and spirit. I realized I didn’t really know Him. Thus, I didn’t really love Him, I loved proving people wrong and my ideas as right. I wanted to be on the right team — to be following the correct movement.

It had been years of running off on my own — pridefully knowing many people were being a Christian incorrectly and I was right. When this all crashed and I felt like a spiritual baby, God was right there (since He had never gone anywhere.) The hardest thing for me was thinking how all these years had been a waste of time running in a bunch of wrong directions. Then the Spirit spoke to my heart: God will spend years teaching us lessons and consider it an excellent use of finite time. As I crashed this year and was found desolated, God jumped in. As Augustine said, “God gives where He finds empty hands.”

3. Mute notifications. Focus entirely.

Just because something makes this list doesn’t mean I’ve learned it completely. Apps want to get our attention immediately (mostly because they’ll make money from us.) Email, texts, Twitter, etc. They all want our attention whenever they want it. I wanted to take control of my life back. This year I tried removing distractions from my day: I placed a Do Not Disturb from 9pm to 9am (which has since increased to 6pm, and I often turn it on during the work day too.) When I need to, I handle fast-paced, multitasking jobs quite well. But, most work doesn’t work that way. Being completely present in whatever task I’m doing (or book I’m reading, or piece I’m writing) is a much more valuable skill.

4. Regret is a bitter feeling

I will write about the bigger lesson with this one later. But, I am nearly finished with Shattered. It’s the story of my friend and former colleague Frank Pastore. I started working with (more like “for”) him at 21, fresh out of college. I met him in much of my prideful season of knowing exactly what it looked like to be a Christian. Frank’s love for learning about the Lord and teaching others the deep truths of who God is didn’t fit into my box of Christianity. It seemed lazy to me — like using grace as a lawn chair. I thought we needed to be out doing and enduring more for God. This led me to leave the radio show we worked on together. It led me on a tiring path of trying to earn God’s love — to do enough for God.

I neglected Frank’s mentorship at 21. Now, after God humbling me and maturing me, 6 years later I’m ready to be mentored by him. I’m ready to sit by the fire and hear his stories. Stories of failure and defeat — about success and having it all. About ministry, and life and marriage and raising children — all while enjoying the grace of God. I want to hear his lessons about being loved perfectly by our Father no matter what we’re walking through.

The only problem is, I can’t do that now. Two years ago, Frank was in a motorcycle accident as he left the radio show we used to work on together. After being in a coma for a month, he died 8 days before Christmas in 2012. I think I finally processed his death a few nights ago as I read a letter he wrote to me. I just wish I could write him back now, having matured out of a lot of the subtle pride I lived in.

5. Happiness isn’t in circumstances

This is a lesson my wife and I have been meditating on. We humans often look forward to things. That’s great and natural, I believe. Whether it’s a vacation, a new job, a child, graduating, or retiring — we love to plan for happiness. “I’ll be happy when…” or “Once this happens, then I’ll be happy.” What we’ve found is that, once that thing happens, you’re left looking for the next thing to anticipate. It’s taking life and making it a search for happiness highs. We’re trying something new. My wife and I are attempting to be happy now, and then enjoy new circumstances when they come. It’s retraining our minds, really. Of course, certain things do get us excited with anticipation. I’m just saying not to make a habit of looking to the next thing.

6. Dwelling with God starts now and continues forever

It’s the truth of the ages: God came and dwelt among us and we can know Him. I used to live for the day when I’d die and leave this earth. I now realize that if I am only looking forward to leaving this earth, I’m missing out on living with the Lord now.

7. Don’t give your heart to ministry movements

I have loved living on the cutting edge of Christianity — where we’re believing something “new” (what’s actually new?), trying to do things “correctly” in a world where many people are incorrect. These were the things I used to think. I was wrong. I gave my heart to ministry movements because they were seemingly truer and better than old tradition (or, simply, older ministry movements) and was left desolated when there wasn’t a new fad to get into. Give your heart, rather, to finding God in every station and season of life and bearing witness of that finding to others you’re naturally around. That is ministry that never goes out of style and doesn’t leave you desolated when the movement’s leader falls or the movement isn’t “radical” enough anymore.

8. Don’t neglect friendship for ministry

There have been times when I thought ministry was doing things I didn’t like doing. In 2014, I realized that friendship is ministry. It might be the purest form, actually. I don’t know that I’ve ever done more effective ministry than when I’m encouraging one of my best friends in the Lord. I think the best ministry I’ve ever received has come through the words, letters or sheer silent fellowship of dear friends. This isn’t to say I never want to minister to people I don’t consider “dear friends.” It’s just that we don’t need to run away from great, life-giving friendships to try to pour ourselves out for people we don’t know. There isn’t someone more holy in that. There isn’t something less holy in friendship.

9. I don’t have to be a pastor to have security in the Lord

I’m not sure when it happened. I might have been 15 or 16. The pervading thought in my heart was that I needed to be a pastor. Not that I was “called” to be a pastor or even felt like God wanted me to pursue that. I just thought I need to be one. For me, it wasn’t because I thought that was the best form of Christianity. It was because I wanted the security of knowing I was definitely doing God’s will. What could be more God’s will then being a pastor? Actually, probably a lot of things — depending on who you are and how He’s gifted you. For me, I love creating and building things. I love learning and teaching others. I may shepherd people. I may teach people. I may even lead people. But, I don’t have to pursue being a pastor as a title, job or role. My security doesn’t come from that. My security comes from being a child of God and having the Father dwell with me now and for eternity.

10. Peace is good

I haven’t always had peace. But, the second half of 2014 has been a year of Peace. It doesn’t have to do with circumstances. I doesn’t have to do with being apart of the “right” ministry or following the right leader. It doesn’t have to do with being heard, having an audience or being known. It has to do with understanding my identity as a child of God. It has to do with realizing how He has made me. It has to do with understanding that my job is to usher in God’s kingdom in my heart, my families heart and the hearts of those around me. I don’t have to run around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to make ministry happen. God is in control. He loves me and wants me. That is awesome. He dwells with me now and He will dwell with me forever. He is ushering in His kingdom on the earth, among the brokenness. I get to enjoy that.

I cannot wait for 2015. Not because I think it holds a bunch of “happiness highs” or because I’m hoping circumstances will change. I’m excited for 2015 because I know the Lord is with us — that He loves dwelling among us. That is beautiful and exciting.