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.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Memphis Real Estate

Two days ago The Commercial Appeal released an article titled, "Memphis to Lead Nation for Rise in Home Prices."  (Note that the article is only available to paid subscribers).  It references a report by the Demand Institute.  The most interesting part about their research, at least for us Memphians, is that they are predicting a 33% growth in the housing market between 2012 and 2018 (see page 18 of the report).  We're actually tied with Tampa, FL for #1.

As a home owner and a real estate agent, this is pretty exciting.  Here's what it means.  If they're correct, a house purchased in 2012 for $118,000 (the average price for a in house in Memphis last year) could possibly be worth $157,000 in 2018.  Or, using the same math, a house purchased in 2012 for $200,000 could possibly be worth $266,000!  How's that for a return!

I've always felt great about Memphis real estate, and it's one of the reasons I'm  both a real estate investor and agent.  Eight years ago we moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Midtown Memphis.  In 2004/2005 we were trying to buy in the Bay Area.  In hindsight I am so grateful that we didn't.  The house we rented at the time was worth over $400,000.  It was 1000 square feet and had two bedrooms and 1 bathroom.  It was in San Leandro, a small community outside of Oakland.

In a good Memphis neighborhood such as Cooper-Young, I can rent a $100,000 home for around $1000/month.  Using that math, the home we rented in San Leandro should have been $4000/month.  It wasn't.  It was $1450/month.  When I did the math, I realized that it was an incredible deal to rent in the bay area, and it was just as much an incredible deal to buy in Memphis.  So since we had been saving money towards a down payment and weren't going to be buying there, we decided to buy investment properties in Tipton County, where I grew up.  And that began my real estate adventure!  

I'll continue to buy here, and more important, I'll continue to help others buy.  If you are looking to buy a home to live in or as an investment, I'd love to help.  You can email me at

As a side note, the other interesting aspect of their research is this:  of the 2,200 cities they analyzed, they discovered that the wealthiest 10% own 52% of the total housing wealth ($4.4 trillion), while the bottom 40% own just 8% of the housing wealth ($700 billion).  I don't guess this should surprise us, but seeing the numbers like this is pretty interesting.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

God Believes in Love

Over the last few days I had the opportunity to watch a conversation between Gabe Lyons and Gene Robinson on the issues of the LGBT community and God.  I say the word "conversation" very intentionally, as I was blown away by the respect that these two men had for one another.  In most cases these types of things are debates, and what unfortunately happens in most debates is that the two parties speak at one another rather than to one another, and true listening and empathy are rare.  I felt that these two men were honest with their beliefs, both in the things they feel solid about as well as the areas in which there are still questions, and I was so encouraged as they both sought common ground and a way forward, which is so key in an issue that has caused this much hurt and division.  No matter what you think about this issue, you owe it to yourself to take some time and watch this.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sabbatical Reading List Part 2

I've enjoyed having extra time for reading during my sabbatical.  Here are the books that I've been reading these last few weeks...

1.  Love Does, by Bob Goff - Mandy read this book a few months ago and shared with me some of the extraordinary stories that he tells.  I have to admit that as I heard and then read them, I was a bit skeptical.  So I decided that one of my prayers during sabbatical was that I would grow young; in other words, I would recapture faith and be less of a cynic.  I must say that this book has both challenged and helped that prayer.

2.  Sensing Jesus, by Zack Eswine - This is a beautiful and challenging book.  It has given me the desire to live a slower life in which I experience life the way Jesus experienced life.  It exposes over and over again the discrepancies between our view of greatness and God's.

3.  Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown - Her talk at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit was outstanding.  The call towards vulnerability, shame resilience, and wholeheartedness, though challenging (a theme with these books it seems), are timely and critical.  Mandy is currently listening to her previous book, The Gifts of Imperfections.  I'm looking forward to that one as well.

4.  Straight Flush, by Ben Mezrich - I'm a sucker for his books.  The movies The Social Network and 21 were based off of two of his previous books.        

5.  Dad is Fat, by Jim Gaffigan - This is the hilarious book by the comedian who lives with his wife and FIVE young children in a 2-bedroom apartment.  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sabbatical Reflections

I am two weeks into my 2-month sabbatical.  For background, here's a post that Meredith Pace, one of our Leadership Team members, wrote a couple of months ago, and here's a post I wrote sharing with our church my heart and plans for this sabbatical.

So far the sabbatical has been marked by travel.  We started out with our second annual micro church trip to the water park, with a stop at Heifer Village on the way.  Two days later the four of us headed east.  We stopped overnight in Atlanta, staying with my Uncle Jack and Aunt Marlene.  Then we drove to Uncle Bruce and Aunt Ginger's Marsh House just a little outside Savannah.  We spent one night there, then two nights at their home in Savannah.

Then we headed to Tybee Island.  It's been a very restful trip so far, and we have two full days left.  Our condo is not completely ocean-front, but it will do.  Here's the view from our balcony.

We've spent most of our time at the pool or on the beach.  The first few days were cooler and windy, which made the waves a bit rough for the boys, but which also made the evenings on the balcony amazing.  We've also eaten a lot of seafood, which is always a good thing.  I introduced the boys to crab legs the other night.  They both loved it.

Yesterday we spent the day on Bruce and Ginger's sailboat.  The boys went fishing and Micah caught two sharks.

On Saturday we begin our drive back home.  We'll be spending the night in Atlanta, and arriving in Memphis on Sunday afternoon.


Sabbatical Reading List Part 1

One of my goals during my sabbatical is to read a lot.  Most of the time I am producing and pouring out.  During this sabbatical I am resting, which means no producing or pouring out.  Instead, I am receiving and being poured into.  One of the ways I'm doing this is through reading.

During this first month I've decided to limit my reading to the Bible, novels, history, and parenting resources.  So here's what I've been reading.

1.  The Epistles (Letters) in the New Testament
I bought a new NIV Bible right before my sabbatical started, and I'm using this chronology I put together for our series on Acts a few years ago.  I'm currently in 2 Corinthians.

2.  1776, by David McCullough
I'm just a third of the way through it, but so far it's a fascinating read.  Some that I remember from school, but lots that I didn't know.  I love reading about George Washington.  Such a great leader.  And I've enjoyed Henry Knox's story, especially the capturing and transporting of the guns from Fort Ticonderoga.  Fascinating.

3.  Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys, by Stephen James and David Thomas
This one has been on my Kindle shelf for awhile.  So glad I'm reading it now.  If you have boys, you need to read this.  The authors utilize the themes from Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are to show the progress of a boy's life.  There's also a ton of practical advice for raising boys.

4.  The Hit, by David Baldacci
I love David Baldacci and have read most of what he's written.  This one was a great read.

5.  Inferno, by Dan Brown
I checked out the kindle version from the library before my sabbatical but didn't finish it, so I then checked out the audio version and am listening to it as well.  This is the fourth book in the Robert Langdon series (The Da Vinci Code)

As I begin to move into the second half of my sabbatical, I'll be shifting gears to spiritual formation, leadership, and ministry/mission.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Over the past few months I've been developing a new habit.  It's not perfect, but it's been accomplishing its purposes.  The habit is rest, and more specifically, it's what the Bible refers to as Sabbath. For these past few months I've been taking off on Wednesday mornings.  From Tuesday evening until around noon on Wednesday, I don't produce anything.  I might have to take a phone call or respond to an email every now and then, but I'm pretty much tech free.  I read, I exercise, I pray, I take a walk.  When Mandy is able to Sabbath with me, she sleeps in a bit, and we either do breakfast or lunch together and actually have time for healthy conversation.

I find that it's a time to regain perspective.  What do I mean by that?  Well, I often forget that God wants to direct my steps and take care of me.  I so often believe the lie that if I don't produce, it won't happen.  Rest goes to battle against that lie.  I also find that it's a time for God to renew my spirit and refresh my dreams.  Almost every Wednesday I come away with one or two big ideas, and the amazing thing is that I wasn't trying to produce a big idea.  It just comes because my heart is at rest.

I've always heard that Sabbath rest is a gift, and I'm starting to really understand this.  When Tuesday rolls around I start looking forward to my morning.  As I said at the start, I haven't perfected the art of rest, but the fruit that has come from it has been so good.  I'm very thankful for that!    

Saturday, March 09, 2013

NC Series on 1 Corinthians

A few weeks ago I began  new teaching series on Paul's first letter to the church in Corinth.  Every year I try to teach one long series.  Last year it was a series on Jesus; the year before on Ephesians.  This year's series will stretch close to five months.

A lot goes into preparing for a series like this.  I've been in prep mode for the last six months.  What does prep mode look like for a series like this?

First, I've read 1 Corinthians many times.  And as I've read, I've thought not only about what God said to the church in Corinth, but about what he wants to say to our church.  In a lot of ways we're very different than the church in Corinth, separated by time & culture in big ways.  But in a lot of other ways this church is our sister.  So not only have I read this letter; I've also prayed it.

Second, I've taken notes as I read.  I sometimes do this on my computer, but this time I used a spiral bound notebook.  I went chapter by chapter, noting observations, questions, words that needed further study, etc.  That in-depth study then helped me discern how to break up the letter for our series.  If you want to know more about how I've broken it up, you can read an intro paper I wrote.  You can also see the Sunday night schedule here.

Third, I've read a lot of commentaries.  Some of my favorites have been by Gordon Fee, Anthony Thiselton, Richard Hays, Craig Blomberg, and Ben Witherington (not a commentary but very helpful).

Fourth, I've listened to sermons from other pastors and teachers.  My favorites have been from Trinity Grace, Soma, & Imago Dei.

Through all of this I've continued to internalize this letter, and as I've done that the teaching has been flowing out, not only in sermons but in discipleship and coaching.  I'm grateful that God continues to speak through such an ancient book, and I'm grateful for how He's going to work in our church this year through it.