Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Books Read - January 2018

It’s the end of Month 1 of 2018. I feel like I did a good job setting goals for the year, but I also feel like the key to seeing those goals realized is to divide those annual goals into quarterly and monthly ones. The reason is accountability. December 2018 feels a  long way away, which means there’s less urgency to attack in January.

One goal I had was to read 30 books in 2018. I’ve had development goals before, but I’ve never really kept up with them. This year will be different, and one of the ways it’s going to be different is that I’m going to share the books I’ve read on my blog.

So for January, I read (or listened to) four books.  Two were fiction (The Poet and Two Kinds of Truth, both by Michael Connelly. I mostly listen to fiction while I’m doing chores.  It works for me, and Mandy doesn’t complain!  The other two books I read were:

1.  Your Best Year Ever, by Michael Hyatt - This book is all about the right kind of goal setting, which made it a great start of the year book.

2.  Rest, by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang - The subtitle is “Why You Get More Done When You Work Less.”  Is there a better subtitle than that!  This book was incredible. I know it’s just January, but I feel like it could be a top 3 book by the time the year is over. Highly recommended.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Top 10 Lists - Books

It's going to be tough to choose 10, but here we go (in no particular order)...

First, a couple of books on money...

The Big Short, by Michael Lewis
I've continued to be intrigued by the financial crisis, especially as it pertains to real estate lending.  A great documentary on this topic is Inside Job, and I also recommend the movie Too Big to Fail, based on the book by Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Money - Master the Game, by Tony Robbins
As long as you can deal with a little hype ("what I'm about to share with you in the next chapter is going to change your life!!!"), this book is really good.  I still haven't finished the entire book (it's almost 700 pages long), but I've put into practice several things...and it has changed my entire life!!!

Next up is fiction.  I read, or listen to, pretty much everything that John Grisham, David Baldacci and Michael Connelly put out, but I thought I would add two books from new-to-me authors.

The Martian, by Andy Weir
I purchased both the kindle and audible books for this, and during our California/Oregon Adventure I went back and forth between reading and listening.  The movie is great, but the book is even better.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
I can't remember where I first heard about this book, but I'm glad I read it.  The two themes of the book, the 80's and video games, are not themes that I'm really into, but I couldn't put the book down.  Armada is his second book, and it's great as well.

Gay Marriage is a pretty divisive topic in our culture today, and our church has continued to wrestle with how to be love and walk with our gay friends.  I've read a lot on these topics this year, but these two books were the most helpful.

Redeeming Sex, by Debra Hirsch
Quite possibly the best book I read this year.  I'm excited that Debra is going to be in Memphis at the end of February!

People to Be Loved, by Preston Sprinkle
I just finished this book.  I appreciate his posture in writing.  He's very humble and doesn't back away from the challenging questions that the church must wrestle with.

Here are two books I heard about while listening to podcasts...

We Learn Nothing, by Tim Kreider
I heard about this book from Tim Ferriss' podcast.  It's a book of essays, and it's hilarious.

Everything that Remains, by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus
These guys, aka the Minimalists, were interviewed by Rob Bell on his podcast.  This is their story.  I also recommend this more practical book of essays.

These two books were most helpful for sermon prep...

A Fellowship of Differents, by Scot McKnight
I just finished up a five month series called Church=Family.  This was one of my primary influences.

The Story of God, the Story of Us, by Sean Gladding
I'm getting ready to start a series on the grand narrative that is the Bible.  This will be the book that I recommend to our folks at NC.

Bonus:  These last two have probably influenced me more than any others.

The Power of Vulnerability, by Brene Brown
So this is not a book but a workshop, but if you've never ready anything by Brene Brown, this is a great place to start.  It covers material from her first three books.  Her writing continues to shape me in pretty profound ways.

The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning
A year ago I felt that I needed to start 2015 off by re-reading this book, and I'm so glad that I did.  I wanted to go back to the message of grace, and I feel that I've been coming back to it throughout the year.  This is one of those books that I feel like I need to read every few years.

2015 Top 10 Lists - Moments

2015 was a great year.  These are some of my top moments.  As I reflect I'm truly grateful to God for all that He's done!

10.  Bella - 2015 marks our family's first full year with a dog since we had Jack.  We love her.  She's such a smart and loyal dog, and the boys take turns sleeping with her each night.

9.  House - We built a 250 sq ft screened porch this summer, and it is fantastic.  It became my primary office for much of the fall, and I'm looking forward to the many memories we'll have in that space through the years to come.

8.  Travel - This summer we spent two weeks in California and Oregon.  We started with a week in Oakland & Yosemite, then drove north for a week, in the process making stops in Mendocino, Etna, Ashland, & finally Portland.  It was definitely an adventure.  And this fall we all went to Washington D.C.  Micah was still a little young to truly appreciate it, but it was perfect for Adam.

7.  Music - For a long time making music was a part of my job.  Now that it's not, I am finding myself having so much fun.  I'm in my fourth year with the Memphis Men's Chorale, I love playing at NC under Kirk Smith's leadership, and I just played in the band at our fourth annual Wassailing for Water Party.  We also love having a piano in the house.

6.  Work - I've been a real estate agent for over five years now, and as much as I love it, this year I got to try my hand at renovating two houses in my neighborhood.  My partner Rob and I brought new life into century-old houses, gave meaningful work to our crew, and have added two awesome families into the Annesdale-Snowden neighborhood.  Hoping to do more of this in 2016.

5.  Neighborhood Church - NC turns 8 years old in a few weeks, and I am so grateful to be a part of this family.  We continue to wrestle through the challenges of how to be a faithful witness in our culture today, but I continue to be grateful by what God is doing.

4.  Turning 40 - There are definitely some negatives that go with this (such as how sore I was the other night after playing basketball for an hour with 5th and 6th graders), but overall I've loved the start to this new decade.  I feel more "comfortable in my own skin" than I ever have.

3.  Micah - Not a day goes by that this little guy doesn't make me laugh.  I love his personality and creativity, and I can't wait to see how it continues to develop!  While at Kanakuk this summer Micah decided that he wanted to give control of his life to Jesus!

2.  Adam - Earlier this fall Adam and I started a weekly tradition of having breakfast together.  Adam normally picks the place (his favorite is Bob's Barksdale), and we read a chapter from this book.  I want to create rites of passages for the boys, and this is how I'm starting.  This has been a really cool transition year for our relationship.  I think Adam and I are going to be good friends.

1.  Mandy - We celebrated 16 years of marriage this summer, our 20th Christmas together, and we're about to celebrate 10 years in Memphis.  There's no one I'd rather share these milestones with!

Honorable Mention - Star Wars

BONUS - Mandy has put together a video with highlights from our year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 Top Ten Lists - Music

Another good year for music!

First up...two of my favorite bands released new albums this year.  They never fail to impress!

Mumford and Sons


Next up is one of my favorite artists of all time.  Mandy and I got to see him live this year at the Orpheum.  I haven't been as much of a fan of his last few albums, but this one is great.  Sorry there's no video.

Harry Connick, Jr.

Did you see the movie Chef?  It's a great movie for so many reasons.  The soundtrack is one of the main ones!  Once again no video.


Bonnie Raitt's I Can't Make You Love Me is an incredible song.  Bon Iver's cover (with S. Carey) is even better.

Bon Iver

I discovered this next band on NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series.  I'd really like to see them live sometime.

The Family Crest

S. Carey started out as Bon Iver's drummer.  Now he has his own gig.

S. Carey

I'm not sure how I heard about this next guy, but I've played his music as much as anyone else this year.

Olafur Arnalds

My favorite song we sang at Neighborhood Church this year was United Pursuit's Simple Gospel.

United Pursuit

The last two songs (and yes, I know this makes it a Top 11 List, but who's counting!) feature the human voice and the human voice alone.  First, a choral piece by Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo.


Finally, a cover of Cover of Mumford and Son's After the Storm

The Swingles

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

2015 California & Oregon Family Adventure

We are getting ready to head to the Portland airport and return to our lives in Memphis.  It's been a great two week adventure, and here are some of my highlights...

Weather - I hear that it’s going to be 100 degrees for the next few days in Memphis.  That’s so sad.  The weather here on the west coast was wonderful.  Crisp and cool in the morning.  Sunny but not too hot in the afternoons.  And most of all, NO HUMIDITY!!!

Books - As someone who has purchased primarily kindle books over the past several years, I must say that after spending some time by myself at Powell’s last night, physical bookstores are great.

Food trucks - I look forward to living in a world where there are great food trucks in every city.  Mandy isn’t quite as fond of food trucks as I am, so I shall pray for her.

Memphis - I know that Memphis has a bad reputation in many parts of our great country, but I have to say that there were times in Oakland and Portland where I was more cautious walking around than I am in Memphis.  Case in point:  yesterday we saw a man walking on the street, yelling and with a paper bag over his head.  Never seen that in Memphis.

Friends - While in the bay area we got to catch up with friends.  Grateful that even though years have passed and we're separated by 2000 miles, we can pick up like no time has past!

Walking - Mandy was tracking our miles walked.  She said we walked around 60 miles over the two weeks.  For Micah and his little legs, that’s got to be the equivalent of over 100, right!  And speaking of mileage, Mandy says that we logged over 4000 miles of driving this summer.  No wonder I’m tired of driving.

Creation - our family’s verse for our two week trip was Psalm 19:1 - "The heavens declare the glory of God.  The skies proclaim the work of His hands."  We all memorized it while at Yosemite, and throughout the trip we recited it back to one another.  During our time I was reminded that our God loves beauty.  Whether it was the granite rising up thousands of feet into the sky at Yosemite, the canopy of Redwoods we saw driving to Mendocino, the ocean crashing against rocks as we curved above on Highway 1, looking up at the stars (and even a planet) from a meadow in Yosemite, or seeing Mt. Shasta and Mt. Hood peeking above the clouds as we drove on interstates, my response each time was one of awe and gratitude.  This trip was so good for our souls.

Family - Finally, the four of us made some great memories that we’ll hopefully never forget.  We laughed a lot.  We rested (a bit).  Mandy and I broke up the occasional fight between the boys, but for the most part they did great together.  The boys got to experience culture in ways that they normally don't.  I’m grateful that we could spend this time together! 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

2014 Top Ten Lists - Apps

There are a number of apps that I use on a daily, or at least weekly, basis.  Here are the ones I rely on most (in no particular order).

1.  Dropbox - I've been using Dropbox for several years. It serves as a cloud backup as well as a simple way to access files from all of my devices.

2.  LastPass - I finally have a good handle on my passwords.  I feel much more secure, and it's a breeze to use.  It again syncs across all of my devices.

3.  PDF Expert - This may well be my most important iPad app.  I use it to write real estate contracts as well as when I teach at NC.

4.  Nozbe - After trying out several task managers, this is the one I landed on.  I'm currently using the free version.  I have three "Projects" set up: Personal, Neighborhood Church, and Real Estate.  Everything falls under one of those.  From there I can note what type of list it is (email, meeting, phone call, etc) and then give it a due date.  Syncs across all devices.

5.  Evernote - I put a lot in Evernote - perhaps too much.  My biggest challenge is to keep it organized by tagging it and putting it in the proper folders.  Some of the ways I use evernote: recipes, real estate contacts, sermon brainstorming, blog posts, notes from phone conversations, kindle highlights, and travel itineraries.

6.  Kindle - Sometimes I miss the feel of a paperback, but tradeoff is that I absolutely love having my entire collection of books on my iPad.  The other thing that is amazing about the kindle is that I can access all of my highlights and notes.  What I normally do after finishing up a book is to save all of the notes in Evernote.  It's great for referencing later.

7.  Zinio - This year I've been doing much of my magazine reading on my iPad.  Subscriptions have come down in price, but the real game changer is that I just learned that I can borrow Zinio magazine issues for free from the library.  I was already doing this with kindle and audio books.

8.  Audible - I enjoy listening to books while I'm driving and when I'm doing chores around the house.  The Audible iPhone app is great, and now that they are owned by Amazon, there is more integration between Kindle and Audible.

9.  Feedly - I started using Feedly after Google discontinued Reader.  I have several categories of blogs and websites that I read on a regular basis.  It's simple to add new content, and it's once again syncs across all of my devices.

10.  Pocket - Finally, there's Pocket.  I love this app!   When I come across an interesting article or blog post in Feedly, I save it to Pocket to read later.  Within Pocket I can tag articles, which I use later for research.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 Top Ten Lists - Books

Below are the best books I read during 2014.  It was hard to choose, so I picked 12 (in no particular order).  Two of the twelve were books I listened to.  The other ten were read on my kindle app.

Money: Master the Game, by Tony Robbins
I have to confess that I haven't finished this 700 page beast of a book.  I first heard the author interviewed on Tim Ferris' podcast (which I highly recommend).  The book is pretty unconventional, but what is great is all of the interviews that Robbins conducted.  He definitely did his homework.  I've already made a couple of changes to our finances as a result of reading this book.

Free, by Mark and Lisa Scandrette
This is probably the best book on money that I've ever read, and the reason is that it's not simply a book about money but a book about values.  Mark and Lisa share their story of the intentional decisions they've made that have enabled them to live life the way they wanted to live it.

Smart Money, Smart Kids, by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze
After I finished college and moved to Nashville, I discovered Dave Ramsey's radio show.  He was very influential on my early money decisions.  Earlier this year I started listening to his show again.  I heard about this book (written with his daughter) and decided to give it a shot.  Very practical and informative.

The Trouble with Paris, by Mark Sayers
I will go ahead and say it: I will read any book that Mark Sayers writes.  Two years ago I read The Road Trip that Changed the World.  It was excellent.  Sayers combines faith, culture, history, and literature in a way that I've never seen.  This book is about consumerism and happiness.

Soul Keeping, by John Ortberg
I love John Ortberg's writing.  I read The Life You've Always Wanted almost 15 years ago, and it continues to be very formative in my life.  This book is focused on his relationship with Dallas Willard.  It is, pun intended, good for the soul.  Note that the kindle version of this book is only $2.99 right now.  Go get it!

Sacred Roots, by Jon Tyson
This is a quick but insightful read on the importance of the Church today.

Making Sense of the Bible, by Adam Hamilton
These next three books were very helpful as I prepared for a teaching series this past spring on theology.  I continue to work through some of the issues that Hamilton raised in this book.  It's very thought-provoking.

Benefit of the Doubt, by Greg Boyd
This was a helpful book on why confidence rather than certainty is the goal when it comes to belief.

The Theology of Dallas Willard, by Gary Black
At times this book was pretty tedious, but I found it very insightful.  Black here tries to compile all of Dallas Willard's teachings (books, talks, and even conversations) and distill a specific theology.  Also written around the same time was A Dallas Willard Dictionary, by Elaine O'Rourke.  It's a helpful little book as well.

The Accidental Anglican, by Todd Hunter
This was a quick read.  I've been following Todd Hunter since my time in San Francisco.  He has had quite the journey going from the Jesus Movement and the Vineyard Churches to now being an Anglican bishop!

Essentialism, by Gergory McKeown
A fellow pastor told me about this book a few months ago, and it has shaped me in some pretty incredible ways since then.  After reading this book I started the process of determining the three primary things I bring to NC.  Since that time I've been honing those things, seeking to stop doing other things, and taking our leadership team through the process.  I still have a lot of work to do, but I believe the process will yield a ton of fruit.

Letters from a Skeptic, by Greg Boyd
I'll end with another that I've yet to finish.  I just started listening to this book a couple of days ago.  The book is a series of letters between Greg and his father about Christianity.  So far, SO GOOD.  Kindle version is currently only $2.51!

Friday, December 19, 2014

2014 Top Ten Lists - Music

Last year was the first time since 2007 that I failed to do my annual top 10 lists.  So, even though my blog posts are now few and far between, I thought I would renew this tradition.  First up...Music (in no particular order)!

The Soundtrack to Inside Llewyn Davis
I still have not seen this movie, but I love the music.  Here's the song "Fare Thee Well", from a documentary on the movie that I did see.  It features Oscar Isaac, Marcus Mumford, and the Punch Brothers.

Snarky Puppy
First off, how can you not dig this band's name.  Listening to their music is great.  Watching a video like this is outstanding.

Punch Brothers
I would absolutely love to see these guys live.  I can imagine that it would be quite the show.

Humming House
Discovered this band on Noisetrade.  Fun, especially this track!

The Brilliance
Please tell me that you know about these musicians.  This is my favorite song.

Once: The Musical
Mandy and I went to see this at the Orpheum.  It was so good.  This song, and particularly the end of the song, was one of those epic and moving musical experiences for me that doesn't happen everyday.

Peter Hollens acapella version of "Hallelujah"
Beautiful.  Those chords!

Digital Age
We did this song at NC a few weeks ago.  Already loved this song, but this version takes it to another level

Head and the Heart
I hate I was out of town when these guys came to Memphis.  I don't like their second album as much as their first, but it's still great.

Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir
This is the fourth version of the Virtual Choir.  Almost 6000 singers from across the world took part in this.  The animation is a little weird in my opinion, but it's a pretty amazing showing of what you get when you combine art and technology.